Africa Media Review for April 30, 2021

‘Act Now’: Africa Medics Warn of India-like COVID Surge
Africa risks being overrun by coronavirus infections if urgent measures are not taken to avert a similar disaster to the “very concerning” crisis in India, the continent’s disease control body said Thursday. India, a vast subcontinent with a population similar to that of Africa, is fighting an explosion of infections, with jarring scenes of citizens desperately seeking oxygen and medicines. This has prompted fears that as new variants spread, Africa’s fragile healthcare systems could crash. “We are watching in total disbelief what is happening in India. The situation in india is very, very concerning to us as a continent. It speaks to the fact that we as a continent must be very prepared,” Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told a press conference. … “It is a wake up call. We cannot be indifferent to what is happening in India. We must act now, decisively and collectively,” said Nkengasong. The African Union will convene an emergency meeting with member states’ health ministers on May 8. “We need to regroup and prepare ourselves,” said Nkengasong. AFP

Chad Army in Fresh Clashes with Rebels, Hundreds Quizzed Over Protests
Government troops and rebels clashed on Thursday in a region of western Chad where the late president Idriss Deby was killed earlier this month, military officials said, as prosecutors interviewed several hundred protesters arrested in recent days. The fighting in the desert region of Kanem, near Chad’s border with Niger, pits Libya-based rebels against forces loyal to a new military junta led by Deby’s son. … The military said late Thursday that an MI24 helicopter had crashed due to a technical fault but did not specify if there were casualties. The rebels however said they had “destroyed” it. For now, the fighting against the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), drawn mainly from the Goran ethnic group, is going on about 300 kilometres (180 miles) north of the capital N’Djamena. The rebels have threatened to march on N’Djamena, where a team from the African Union arrived Thursday to assess the situation and examine ways of a speedy return to democratic rule. … France, the former colonial power, initially backed the military transition authorities before calling for the formation of a civilian unity government in the face of protests against the apparent dynastic transfer of power. France24 with AFP

SADC Ministers Agree to Deploy a Regional Force in Mozambique
Southern African ministers have agreed to deploy a regional force in Mozambique to help that country defeat an Islamic State-linked insurgency. The ministers, representing the troika of the security organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), appear to have accepted a plan proposed by their military officials to send in a 2,916-strong rapid response force. The ministers agreed to present the plan to a summit of the heads of state organ of the security organ troika in Maputo on Thursday. But then SADC announced that the summit had been postponed indefinitely because neither President Cyril Ramaphosa nor Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi were able to attend. Ramaphosa is to appear before the Zondo Commission on Thursday, and Masisi is in quarantine because of Covid-19. They, along with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, are the current members of the SADC security organ troika. The three would have met Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi at the summit to decide whether to accept the proposed intervention plan. Daily Maverick

UN Focuses On Demand to Repatriate Foreign Fighters in Libya
The U.N. Security Council held an informal meeting Thursday focusing on the repatriation of more than 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, a demand of the country’s transitional government as it heads toward December elections after a decade of fighting and upheaval. Vietnam’s U.N. Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, the current council president, told several reporters that members stressed the importance of implementing last October’s cease-fire agreement which included the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries within three months. That didn’t happen. Dang said when a pullout will take place is “a very difficult question” because it depends on many, many factors, first and foremost “the political determination” of U.N. member nations involved in the Libyan conflict. The U.N. estimated in December that there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians. But council diplomats said speakers Thursday said there were more than 20,000, including 13,000 Syrians and 11,000 Sudanese. AP

Central African Troops and Russian Mercenaries Accused of Abuses in Anti-Rebel Offensive
Central African Republic’s army and its allies have driven back a rebel group that seized towns around the country amid contested elections in December, but rights groups and residents told The New Humanitarian they committed a string of abuses in the process. “I cannot file a complaint – against whom would I file it?” said a 32-year-old truck driver who was shot at in December from a checkpoint allegedly controlled by Russian mercenaries and Central African soldiers outside the northeastern town of Grimari. Four people in the vehicle – including an aid worker – were killed in the incident, which happened as the group of civilians was fleeing Bambari, 80 kilometres to the east. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced when the rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) swept through the countryside late last year and launched attacks on the capital, Bangui, to force the resignation of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. … Allegations have also piled up against Russian mercenaries, who have had a presence in the country for several years but were bolstered by the arrival of hundreds more in December. The New Humanitarian

Displaced Children in Central African Republic Risk Forced Recruitment, Gender-Based Violence
Conflict and violence have displaced 370,000 children throughout the Central African Republic. The U.N. children’s fund says among them are at least 163,000 children who were forced to flee widespread violence in the run-up to and following December’s contested general election. Protection is one of the most urgent needs as internally displaced children face many dangers from violence, armed groups, COVID-19 and associated risks. Speaking from the C.A.R. capital, Bangui, UNICEF Representative Fran Equiza tells VOA insecurity in the country is increasing as armed groups become ever more violent. One of his major concerns, he says, is the risk of children being forcibly recruited by armed groups. “The uprooted kids are limited and sometimes, some of them absolutely with no parents around makes them extremely vulnerable to these movements that we have seen in the last few months to be increasing in the country,” Equiza said. VOA

Attackers Kill At Least 20 in Attack in Ethiopia’s Oromiya Region, Says Official
Gunmen killed at least 20 people last week in western Ethiopia, a regional government official said on Thursday, in what he and two residents described as an attack on civilians from the Amhara ethnic group. The incident occurred in the district of Limmu Kosa, in the Jimma zone of the Oromiya region. At least 20 civilians were killed in the attack, the Oromiya regional government’s spokesman Getachew Balcha told Reuters. He said the attackers were from OLF-Shane or Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a formerly banned opposition group that returned from exile after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office. The Oromo are the country’s largest ethnic group and the Amhara are its second largest. Clashes between people from the two groups killed 18 people in another part of the country earlier this month. Reuters

Sudan Says Ready to Implement Security Arrangements
The Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced the readiness of the security committees to gather former rebel forces in the cantonment sites as provided in the Juba peace agreement. Under the peace agreement signed between the Sudanese government and the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF)’s factions on October 3, 2020, the assembling of forces should have taken place two months after the signing of the agreement, but the step was delayed for months, due to lack of funding. “The security committees are ready to gather combatants into cantonment sites in Darfur and the Two Areas, as part of the implementation of the security arrangements chapter,” al-Burhan told the South Sudanese Chief Mediator Tut Gatluak according to a statement by the Sovereign Council after a meeting in Khartoum on Thursday. Al-Burhan further reiterated the government’s commitment to implementing the peace agreement pointing it represents “the main pillar of the country’s security and stability.” Sudan Tribune

Nigeria Facing Extraordinary Security Challenges — US
United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has described the security challenges facing Nigeria as extraordinary. He stated this during a virtual roundtable with Kenyan and Nigerian journalists. On how the US could assist Nigeria to tackle the security challenges posed by Boko Haram, bandits, and IPOB, Blinken said: “It is fair to say that the challenges that Nigeria faces, when it comes to security, are quite extraordinary — and you referenced them — whether it’s terrorism, whether it’s banditry and criminality, whether it’s piracy. All of these are real challenges. “One, we are in absolute solidarity between us in trying to address these challenges together. And the United States is committed to supporting Nigeria as it meets these challenges. And what that involves primarily is helping Nigeria continue to build its capacity through training, through resources, through information sharing, through equipment, and all of that done, very importantly, with full respect for human rights. “But it’s also important that we work together, as we are, to address some of the drivers or facilitators of violence and instability that we know those engaged in these activities can sometimes feed on. And that’s why you have to have a comprehensive approach to these challenges.” Vanguard

Nigerian Capital Alert over Fresh Boko Haram Threats
Forty-one-year-old Enoch Obemeasor is more alert this week on his daily two-hour commute from his home in Tafa village, Niger state, to the Nigerian capital for his printing business. Niger state authorities on Monday said Boko Haram militants attacked the town of Kaure, abducted women, sent thousands fleeing, and hoisted their flag. Niger state governor Abubakar Bello said at least 3,000 locals fled Kaure when the Islamists attacked and abducted an unknown number of women. … Nigerian military authorities denied the claim that Boko Haram had taken any territory and assured that Abuja residents are safe. Abuja Commissioner of Police Bala Ciroma this week ordered stepped-up security patrols around Abuja’s schools. Armed groups in northern Nigeria have carried out a series of attacks on schools since December, kidnapping more than 700 students, according to the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF). But authorities believe most of the attacks were by criminal groups looking for ransom – not Boko Haram, which usually operates in northeast Nigeria. But Beacon Security analyst Kabiru Adamu said the militants could grow the area of their attacks if not soon stopped. VOA

Zimbabwe Law Change to Give Mnangagwa Mugabe-Era Powers
Three years after sweeping into power through a military coup and promising a new and unfolding democracy, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa is now being compared to his authoritarian predecessor Robert Mugabe as he pushes a series of changes to the constitution to consolidate his hold on power. President Mnangagwa, 78, a protégé of the late Mr Mugabe who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for 37 years, in the past fortnight forced through Parliament a raft of changes to the constitution that will see him determine his successor, among other privileges. The latest amendments to the constitution that was only adopted in 2013 will see the president handpicking his vice presidents and senior judges. Constitutional experts described the Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 as unconstitutional and poorly drafted while civil society organisations and the opposition said it was a sign that Zimbabwe was sliding back to authoritarianism. “The haste with which the Bill is being rushed through Parliament is almost indecent,” said legal think-tank Veritas. “It is certainly inappropriate for a Bill that will amend the country’s supreme law.” The EastAfrican

Kenya Revises Refugee Camp Closure to June 2022
Kenya on Thursday rescheduled its planned closure of refugee camps to June next year, following discussions with the UN Refugee Agency to stagger the shut-down. As such Kakuma and Dadaab Refugee camps will be closed down by June next year, allowing refugees time to leave gradually rather than in masses. The decision arose from last-minute lobbying by the UNHCR boss Filippo Grandi who held discussions with Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Foreign Affairs counterpart Raychelle Omamo. Under the new arrangement, at least 15,000 refugees will be let go every month; either to return to their homelands of be resettled elsewhere. Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said the decision is the last considerate move by Kenya to stay within international law as well as protect its national security interests. … The announcement means that Nairobi has, for the fifth time, delayed its plan to close the camps. In 2013, Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR had reached a tripartite agreement to gradually close Dadaab camp. The agreement expired with just a small fraction of refugees accepting to voluntarily return to their country. Further plans have been challenged in court. The EastAfrican

Gunmen Kill 18 in Burkina Faso Attack, Force Many to Flee
A local official in northern Burkina Faso has said at least 18 people were killed and one seriously wounded in an attack this week that also caused “massive displacement.” Salfo Kabore, governor of Seno province located in conflict-hit Burkina Faso’s Sahel region, said unidentified gunmen carried out the attack on Monday in Yattakou village. Many local residents fled towards the capital of the Seytenga commune, while the wounded person was taken to hospital in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, Kabore said in a statement on Wednesday. The attack happened the same day that two Spanish journalists and an Irish conservationist were killed and a Burkinabe soldier went missing when their anti-poaching patrol was ambushed by rebels in the country’s east. … Earlier this week, the United Nations and NGOs warned that a record 29 million people in six countries in the Sahel were in need of humanitarian assistance in the face of “unparalleled” insecurity and growing hunger. Al Jazeera

Growth in Burkina Faso Gold Mining Fuels Human Trafficking
As part of a months-long investigation into sex trafficking and the gold mining industry, The Associated Press met with nearly 20 Nigerian women who said they had been brought to Burkina Faso under false pretenses, then forced into prostitution. Some of the women, who like Blessing spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety, said they knew hundreds of others with similar stories. To protect their safety, AP is identifying the women by the names they used for sex work. The AP verified the women’s stories through interviews with aid workers, lawyers, police, local anti-trafficking activists, health workers, a trafficker, and members of the Nigerian community in several towns throughout Burkina Faso. People with knowledge of the trafficking say most of the women come from Nigeria’s Edo state, where promises of jobs in shops or salons in Burkina Faso sounded like a good way to support their families. Once here, they were sent to work off debts in squalid conditions at or near small-scale gold mines. AP

Talks with Sahel Extremists: Taboo, Or a Path toward Peace?
In once-peaceful Burkina Faso, it was Djibo that first fell. The jihadi insurgency currently engulfing the country originally spread from neighboring Mali, where groups backed by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have operated for almost a decade. But homegrown Islamist movements soon sprung up. And the provincial capital of Djibo itself, near the border, was home to one Malam Ibrahim Dicko, a radical preacher calling on the region to rise up against the government, which he accused of neglecting the north. So last November, after five years of bloodshed, Djibo’s residents welcomed an odd development. The number of jihadi attacks was falling considerably, and some of the town’s men who had joined Islamist groups returned – the result of secret peace talks between jihadis and government officials, as reported by the New Humanitarian. Today, the fragile cease-fire appears to have broken down. Attacks are creeping back up in Djibo, the capital of northern Soum province. The violence has been like a wave, according to Oumar Zombre, a journalist with Radio Télévision du Burkina in the country’s capital, Ouagadougou. “There are sporadic attacks,” he says. “It gets calm and then it gets hot again.” The Christian Science Monitor

10,000 Angolans Flee to Namibia Due to Drought
More than 10,000 Angolans have taken refuge in Namibia due to the drought, an official said Wednesday. Angola shares a 1,100km border with Namibia in the provinces of Cunene, Namibe and Cuando Cubango. According to the Namibian Ambassador to Angola, Patrick Nandago, the refugees are from Huíla, Cunene, Namibe and Cuando Cubango provinces. Angolans living in the border provinces with Namibia are experiencing food and water shortages due to persistent drought with malnutrition widespread among children. Mr Nandago added that the number of citizens seeking refuge in his country increases daily. The diplomat also defended the reopening of the common border with Angola, which was closed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He assured Namibians that authorities are prepared to deal with any issue that may arise. Many Angolan children who live along the border attend classes in Namibian schools and people living along the border have relatives in both countries. Last month, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said hunger in Angola was on the rise as the country experienced its worst episode of drought in four decades in the south-western provinces. The EastAfrican

A 22-Million-Year Journey from the Asteroid Belt to Botswana
On the morning of June 2, 2018, an asteroid was seen careening toward us at 38,000 miles per hour. It was going to impact Earth, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. Astronomers were beside themselves with excitement. Five feet long and weighing about the same as an adult African elephant, this space rock posed no threat. But the early detection of this asteroid, only the second to be spotted in space before hitting land, was a good test of our ability to spot larger, more dangerous asteroids. Moreover, it afforded scientists the chance to study the asteroid before its obliteration, quickly narrow down the impact site and obtain some of the most pristine, least weathered meteorite samples around. Later that day, a fireball almost as bright as the sun illuminated Botswana’s darkened sky before exploding 17 miles above ground with the force of 200 tons of TNT. Fragments fell like extraterrestrial buckshot into a national park larger than the Netherlands. Immediately, Botswanan scientists and guides joined with international meteorite experts to hunt for the asteroid’s wreckage. The New York Times

African Photography CAP Prize 2021 Shortlist – in Pictures
The CAP Prize has announced 25 shortlisted projects with the highest ratings at the online showcase Award Winning African Photography – photo basel Takes a Closer Look. Here we take a look at a selection of the shortlisted photographers work. The Guardian