Africa Media Review for April 27, 2021

Two Dead, 27 Hurt as Chad Protesters Demand Civilian Rule
At least two people were killed and 27 injured in Chad on Tuesday as demonstrators took to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule after the military took control following President Idriss Deby’s death last week. Tensions have risen in Chad following Deby’s death and the military transition is struggling to win over a population exhausted by 30 years of monolithic, autocratic rule. A health official at a hospital in the capital N’Djamena, who requested anonymity, confirmed the death of a man in his 20s who was brought into the emergency ward along with 27 other people injured during Tuesday’s protests. Witnesses also reported the death of another protester in Moundou, Chad’s second largest city. … The military council seized power after Deby was killed as he visited troops fighting rebels on April 19. … “We do not want our country to become a monarchy,” said 34-year-old protester Mbaidiguim Marabel. “The military must return to the barracks to make way for a civilian transition.” … Anti-French sentiment was running high among the protesters, who blamed France for having backed the Deby regime against the will of the people. Reuters

UN Experts Say South Sudan Divisions Widen, New War Possible
U.N. experts are warning that political, military and ethnic divisions in South Sudan are widening, leading to multiple violent incidents between the main signatories to last year’s cease-fire, the possibility of renewed war, and nearly 100,000 people facing “famine-like conditions.” The experts said in an 81-page report circulated Monday that the slow pace of reforms by President Salva Kiir’s government and more than a year of political disputes and disagreements over how to implement the February 2020 cease-fire and a 2018 peace agreement has led to frayed relations between Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar. Discontent within Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and his power base in the Dinka ethnic group over his handling of the transition “has led to calls for new leadership,” the panel of experts said in the report to the U.N. Security Council. … Intense international pressure followed the recent peace deal and coalition government led by Kiir, with Machar as his deputy. But the government has failed to achieve many reforms including completing unification of the army command, graduating a unified force, and reconstituting the Transitional National Legislative Assembly. AP

Somalia’s Unrest Continues Over President’s Stay in Power
Soldiers angry over the president’s extended stay in power took up key positions across Somalia’s tense capital on Monday, but there was none of the gunfire that shattered the previous night in Mogadishu. As the mutinous soldiers stationed themselves at key intersections with truck-mounted machine guns, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble called for a cease-fire and an emergency meeting to discuss the country’s security. He urged security forces “not to mingle with politics.” But a defiant Col. Abdulqadir Mohamud Warsame, stationed along the key Maka al-Mukarrama street in the capital, said the fighting would continue if President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed doesn’t return to negotiations on a way out of the political standoff or resign. … The president faces growing opposition in Somalia and abroad after the lower house of parliament approved a two-year extension of his mandate and that of the federal government and he signed it into law it, to the fury of Senate leaders and criticism from the international community. The African Union was the latest to condemn the actions. AP

Residents of Somalia’s Capital Flee Amid Splits within Security Forces
Residents of the Somali capital Mogadishu fled neighbourhoods on Tuesday fearing renewed clashes between rival factions in the security forces, who have split in a dispute over an extension to the president’s term. Government forces also raided an independent radio station and confiscated equipment. Forces loyal to the opposition hold parts of the city and the two sides clashed over the weekend, raising fears that al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents could exploit a security vacuum as state forces turn on each other. read more Earlier this month, Somalia’s lower house of parliament voted to extend President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s four-year term in office but the Senate rejected the move, provoking the crisis. Reuters

In Africa, Vaccine Hesitancy Adds to Slow Rollout of Doses
Some Africans are hesitating to get COVID-19 vaccines amid concerns about their safety, alarming public health officials as some countries start to destroy thousands of doses that expired before use. Malawi and South Sudan in recent days have said they will destroy some of their doses, a concerning development on a continent where health officials have been outspoken about the need for vaccine equity as the world’s rich nations hold the bulk of shots. … Vaccine-related suspicions have been spread widely on social media, driven partly by a general lack of trust in authorities. Uganda’s health minister had to refute allegations she faked receiving a shot, even posting a video of herself getting the jab on Twitter, along with the admonition: “Please stop spreading fake news!” … Austin Demby, Sierra Leone’s health minister, told reporters last week that a third of the 96,000 doses the country received in March will likely not be used before they expire, citing a lack of urgency among some people who decided that COVID-19 is “not as bad as Ebola,” which ravaged the country several years ago. AP

DR Congo PM Says Not Ruling Out ‘State of Emergency’ in East
DR Congo’s new prime minister on Monday said he would not rule out a “state of emergency” in the country’s east, where the armed forces are struggling with militia groups. “No option will be excluded,” Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde said in his inaugural speech to the National Assembly, referring to violence gripping three eastern provinces, North and South Kivu and Ituri. Among the possibilities, he said, was “the declaration of a state of emergency by the head of state in all areas subject to violence and armed conflict.” Measures could notably include “the replacement of the civilian administration by military administration in such areas,” he said. More than 120 armed groups, many of them a legacy of regional wars in the 1990s, roam the east of the vast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The bloodiest of them is the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which has carried out a string of massacres in the last 18 months. AFP

Why ‘the Kidnapping Industry Is Thriving’ in Nigeria
… On that Sunday in mid-January, Ayo and his wife narrowly escaped joining the thousands of Nigerians who are kidnapped each year from highways and villages across Africa’s most populous country by gangs of armed men known colloquially as bandits. The other motorists were not so lucky — Ayo heard later that some of them were abducted. A combination of explosive population growth, rampant unemployment, underfunded and incapable security forces, and easy access to small arms has made banditry a booming industry in a struggling economy, and Nigeria’s most serious security threat. “Sadly the kidnapping industry is thriving across Nigeria,” says Aisha Yesufu, a social justice activist from the north of the country. “We are in a situation in Nigeria where people who ordinarily would enter normal society, would work, they do not have any hope for anything. Instead they . . . go and kidnap people [to] make money.” The economic picture in Nigeria is dire. … Ransom payments that can range from a few hundred US dollars for ordinary citizens to reportedly six figures for high-profile victims are an attractive incentive to organised crime syndicates and young men lacking opportunities. FT

More Than 30 Nigerian Soldiers Killed in Militant Attack
Militants overrun an army base in northeastern Nigeria, killing more than 30 soldiers before pulling back in the face of air strikes, sources said. The attackers were believed to belong to the regional offshoot of Islamic State. They hit the base in Mainok town in northeast Borno state on Sunday afternoon, three soldiers and a local resident told Reuters. Rising insecurity across Nigeria has killed scores of soldiers and civilians this year. Just over a month ago, about 30 soldiers were killed in four attacks by Islamist militants in northeast Nigeria. A military spokesman reached by phone said they would issue a statement on the incident but declined to comment further. The sources told Reuters that 33 soldiers were killed in Sunday’s attack. The militants wore military camouflage and arrived in around 16 gun trucks and six mine-resistant military vehicles, one of the soldiers said. After several hours, they captured the base and soldiers called in airstrikes. Reuters

Nigeria: Suspected IPOB Gunmen Kill Four Soldiers in Rivers
Four Nigerian soldiers were killed on Sunday by suspected IPOB gunmen in a community in Rivers State, Nigeria’s South-south, in one of the most daring incidents in the ongoing vicious attacks on security agencies in the region, as well as in the South-east. The attack occurred at about 11:30 p.m. in a hotel, Edibe Hotel, in Abua- Odual Local Government Area of the state where the soldiers, attached to an oil company, Starling Global Ltd, were on an escort duty, a source familiar with the incident told Premium Times, Monday. … There is concern by government officials, security experts, and ordinary Nigerians that the ongoing attacks on security agencies in the South-east and South-south, which appeared to be coordinated, is getting worse by the day, and has already worsened the security challenges in the two regions. Apart from the killing in Abua- Odual, soldiers were said to be among eight security officials killed on Sunday by gunmen along the Omagwa/Isiokpo/Elele Owerri Road in Rivers State. In Imo State, Nigeria’s South-east, gunmen suspected to be IPOB members attacked and set ablaze the country home of the state governor, Hope Uzodinma. Within the past one week, there have been deadly attacks on police facilities in Enugu and Anambra states. Premium Times

Three Westerners and a Burkinabe Missing After Attack in Eastern Burkina Faso
The group — composed of soldiers, forest rangers and foreign reporters — was targeted in the Fada N’Gourma-Pama area, according to a local official, who added “the provisional toll reports three people injured, four missing.” The attack was also confirmed by security sources, with one saying the Westerners included “two Spaniards and an Irishman, all of whom were working on behalf of an NGO protecting the environment.” “According to survivors, two of the foreigners were wounded during the attack. The search is ongoing” to find the four missing people, added the source. The attackers used two pick-up vehicles and a dozen motorbikes, according to security sources. AFP

Libya PM Calls Off Benghazi Visit after Security Turned Back
Libya’s interim prime minister called off his visit Monday to the country’s east after a government advance security team was turned back from the airport in the eastern city of Benghazi, officials said. Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and his Cabinet were to hold a meeting in Benghazi, the main stronghold of Libya’s east-based forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Hifter. Mohamed Hamuda, a government spokesman, said late Sunday that the Benghazi meeting was postponed. He did not give a reason but said they were working to set up another date for the meeting. A government official in the capital, Tripoli, said the development came after authorities at the Benghazi airport turned back an armed entourage that was sent to secure Dbeibah’s visit. An official with Hifter’s forces said the entourage had asked to take over the airport security during the prime minister’s visit, a demand rejected by airport officials. AP

Blinken Presses Ethiopia’s Abiy on Withdrawal of Eritreans from Tigray
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday pressed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for troops from Eritrea involved in the Tigray conflict to be withdrawn “immediately, in full, and in a verifiable manner,” according to a statement. Blinken said Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces in the Tigray region are contributing to the growing humanitarian disaster and committing human rights abuses, according to a statement by U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price describing a phone call with Abiy. “The Secretary also stressed the need for all parties to the conflict to end hostilities immediately,” Price said. Washington said last week that it had seen no evidence of a troop withdrawal promised by both Ethiopia and Eritrea. Blinken also expressed concern in the call about the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Ethiopia, including the growing risk of famine in the Tigray region, Price said. Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Make First Virtual Visit to Africa
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to make his first visit to Africa, virtually, where he will meet with the presidents of Nigeria and Kenya. Tuesday’s tour will include a meeting with African youth from across the continent. Blinken will then meet with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama “to reiterate the value of our bilateral relationship and discuss issues of shared importance,” the state department said in a statement. The visit comes as the security situation in the country, a key oil exporter, continues to spiral amid attacks by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the north, widespread displacement and increases in kidnappings for ransom. During Blinken’s virtual trip to Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo will celebrate the “57-year bilateral relationship” and “discuss future cooperation to promote democracy and expand trade, and explore avenues to address global challenges, including climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic,” the state department said. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones