Africa Media Review for April 5, 2021

Niger Inaugurates President in 1st Democratic Power Transfer
Niger has sworn in its new president in the West African nation’s first democratic transfer of power. Newly elected President Mohamed Bazoum’s inauguration Friday comes days after Niger’s security forces thwarted an attempted military coup at the presidential palace overnight from Tuesday into Wednesday. Niger already faces unprecedented threats from Islamic extremists near its troubled border with Mali. Bazoum succeeds President Mahamadou Issoufou who is stepping down after serving two terms, in accordance with Niger’s constitution. Issoufou’s decision to respect the constitution has been widely hailed and paves the way for Niger’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since its independence from France in 1960. The West African nation has seen four coups. Bazoum pledged to be “the elected President for all Nigeriens” during his inauguration speech Friday. AP

Explosions in Somalia Kill at Least 15; Army Bases Targeted
Simultaneous large explosions were heard in and around two Somali army bases on Saturday, with the military confirming that at least nine staffers were killed but asserting the attackers had “heavy losses” of dozens of dead. The al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility. In a separate attack Saturday evening, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive at a tea shop in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing at least six people, police spokesman Sadiq Ali Adan told The Associated Press. Four other people were wounded. No one immediately claimed responsibility. Residents said the attacks at the army bases occurred in Bariirre and Awdhegleh villages of Lower Shabelle region, 75 kilometers (46 miles) south of Mogadishu. … There have been fears that the al-Qaida-linked group would be emboldened by Somalia’s current political crisis as President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is under pressure to step aside. Elections meant for February have been delayed. AP

Tigray Conflict Sparks a War of Fake Tweets and Intense Propaganda
At first glance, George Bolton was exactly what Ethiopia’s state media needed. His Twitter account, featuring a photo of a distinguished-looking man and the façade of the UN headquarters in New York, identified him as a “political analyst and humanitarian” and a former UN diplomat. His tweets faithfully supported the Ethiopian government in the Tigray war, even as evidence of military atrocities mounted. There was just one problem: George Bolton did not exist. … The deception was easily proven – yet his tweets were still prominently displayed on the social media accounts of state-run Ethiopian media outlets. … But it was just one example of the intense propaganda wars that swirl around the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, involving thousands of deceptive posts on Facebook and Twitter every day from all sides in the battle, including state media. The war has killed thousands of people, forced as many as two million people to flee their homes and destroyed much of the region’s health care system and other basic services. Countless women have been violently attacked and sexually assaulted. But the severe damage and the rising death toll have often been obscured by a fog of falsehoods and duelling propaganda claims. The Globe & Mail

‘Two Bullets Is Enough:’ Analysis of Tigray Massacre Video Raises Questions for Ethiopian Army
Graphic, unverified footage had surfaced of a mass killing near Dawit’s hometown of Mahibere Dego, in a mountainous area of central Tigray. In the shaky video Ethiopian soldiers appeared to round up a group of young, unarmed men on a wind-swept, dusty ledge before shooting them at point-blank range — picking them up by an arm or a leg and flinging or kicking their bodies off a rocky hillside like ragdolls. The soldiers can be heard in the footage urging one another not to waste bullets, to use the minimum amount needed to kill and to make sure none of the group were left alive. They also appear to cheer each other on, praising the killings as heroic and hurling insults at the men in their captivity. … Through a forensic frame-by-frame investigation of the video footage — corroborated by analysis from Amnesty International’s digital verification and modeling experts — as well as interviews with 10 family members and local residents, CNN has established that men wearing Ethiopian army uniforms executed a group of at least 11 unarmed men before disposing of their bodies near Mahibere Dego. CNN

Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan Resume Talks on Big Dam Amid Tensions
A new round of talks between three African nations began Saturday, officials said, aimed at resolving a yearslong dispute over a giant dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River’s main tributary. The three-day talks are taking place in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the current chair of the African Union. The AU is mediating the negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Cairo wants the negotiations to eventually lead to a legally binding agreement over the operation and filling of the dam’s massive reservoir. … Sudan said it would take part in the Kinshasa round with an aim of agreeing on a “negotiating approach” to ensure the talks would be constructive. That would include an Egyptian-backed Sudanese proposal to include the U.S., European Union and United Nations as mediators along with the AU, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. AP

Four Peacekeepers Killed in Northern Mali Attack: UN
The United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has said four peacekeepers were killed and several others wounded in an attack on its base in the northern town of Aguelhok. Peacekeepers repelled the attack on the camp that was carried out by several “heavily armed terrorists,” MINUSMA said in a statement on Friday, adding that the attackers suffered heavy losses including several deaths. “A provisional toll shows four peacekeepers dead”, said the statement, adding that the wounded were evacuated via helicopter. A MINUSMA source told AFP news agency the attack occurred some 200km (120 miles) from the Algerian border, targeting a contingent of peacekeepers from Chad. The peacekeeping mission, established in 2013, has about 13,000 peacekeepers drawn from several countries operating at the centre of a multilayered and complicated conflict that has spread across the western portion of the Sahel, a semi-arid region directly south of the Sahara Desert. Al Jazeera

Blast in Video of Purported Shootdown of Nigerian Military Plane Is Fake, Analysis Shows
The mid-air explosion of a Nigerian military jet shown in a video released by Boko Haram was faked, according to a CNN analysis. Conflicting reports had emerged in Nigeria over the video of a downed plane, after the country’s air force disputed claims from Boko Haram that its militants shot down a jet. Boko Haram released a seven-minute video Friday, showing the Nigerian Alpha jet flying above its fighters. Then there is a mid-air explosion. When analyzed closely, however, the explosion includes a thin smoke trail immediately above the plane — at odds with its trajectory. The smoke trail and the shape and color of the fireball are identical to a mid-air explosion of a helicopter over the Syrian city of Ma’arrat al-Nu’man, near Idlib, in 2012. … A spokesperson told CNN Thursday the fighter jet had been deployed near Borno State in northeastern Nigeria to provide air support to ground troops, who were under fire from Boko Haram fighters before radar contact was lost. CNN

Cameroon Police Crack Down on Opposition
For the second consecutive time, heavily armed police dispersed an opposition leaders’ meeting held to propose reforms they say are needed to democratically change the more than four-decade-long rule of 88-year-old Cameroonian President Paul Biya. Opposition leaders, including three former presidential candidates, say the crackdown is the latest setback in their attempt to pave the way for peaceful transition of power from Africa’s second-longest-ruling president. Seven opposition leaders said they were forcefully evicted from a meeting held in Yaounde Wednesday as they were pressing for reforms to rescue elections from the strong grip of Cameroon’s long-serving president, Paul Biya. The leaders issued a formal statement on April 3. VOA

CAR Militia Leader Sidiki Abass Dies from Injuries: Armed Group
A Central African Republic militia leader blacklisted by the United States and the United Nations for human rights abuses including rape and torture has died from injuries he sustained in November, his armed group said on Friday. Sidiki Abass, leader of the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation or 3R armed group, died on March 25 at a health centre in Kambakota, around 320km (199 miles) north of the capital, Bangui, according to a statement signed by “General Bobbo,” who described himself as the new leader of the group. Abass, whose real name is Bi Sidi Souleymane, died from wounds sustained during an attack on the town of Bossembele, 130km (81 miles) northwest of Bangui, on November 16 last year, General Bobbo’s statement read. In December, 3R joined with the Coalition of Patriots for Change, an alliance of some of the war-torn country’s most powerful armed groups. The alliance launched an offensive two weeks before December 27 presidential elections in a bid to prevent a victory by President Faustin-Archange Touadera and to overturn his government. Al Jazeera

Ivory Coast Is Falling behind Its Vaccination Schedule. Health Workers Fear Thousands of Shots Could Expire.
Health leaders in Ivory Coast were thrilled when the first half-million coronavirus vaccine doses arrived in late February. But that excitement cooled to concern as the West African country’s rollout collided with a lack of demand. By March 30, the nation of 26 million had doled out 40,153 shots — well short of the monthly output needed to stay on schedule before the AstraZeneca vials expire in September. … A shortage of health-care workers across the continent is also slowing vaccine deliveries in several nations, experts warn. … The push in Ivory Coast is plagued by a pervasive hesitancy, officials say. … A recent Afrobarometer poll of five West African countries — Benin, Liberia, Senegal, Niger and Togo — found that only 4 in 10 respondents said they’d consider getting a dose. In Ivory Coast, the government is scrambling to boost interest with social media campaigns and Facebook Live events. Scientists are scheduling meetings with influential religious leaders, hoping to sway followers. The Washington Post

Kenya Stops the Private Importation of COVID-19 Vaccines
Kenya has ordered an immediate suspension to the private importation of coronavirus vaccines, citing fears that otherwise counterfeit inoculations may get into the East African country. … Private health facilities have been charging about $80 apiece for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, while Kenyan institutions are giving out free AstraZeneca vaccines the government received from the global COVAX initiative. In recent weeks, government has been working to improve the reluctant uptake by frontline workers of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. So far around 160,000 people have been vaccinated in more than a month. After announcing new restrictions on movement due to a surge of coronavirus infections and deaths, President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 26 led his cabinet in getting vaccinated publicly. AP

South Africa Sends Troops to Evacuate Nationals in Mozambique
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa held an urgent meeting with his Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapsia-Nqakula on Saturday following his announcement that he had sent troops to Mozambique to evacuate South Africans trapped in the wake of recent deadly attacks by ISIS-affiliated jihadist fighters. Ramaphosa did not specify how many South African soldiers had been sent into Mozambique, but he assured the public that everything was being done to repatriate nationals caught up the latest wave of violence. … Mozambique which has shown itself to be incapable of containing the insurrection initially asked neighboring South Africa for military assistance. Ramaphosa declined saying the country’s national defence force it was not able to act unilaterally in a conflict of this magnitude. His hand has been forced by his nationals, mostly involved in the gas project, becoming imperiled. There is no indication how long the South African troops will remain in Mozambique. RFI

France’s Total Pulls All Staff from Mozambique Gas Site Amid Clashes
French energy major Total has withdrawn all its staff from its Afungi natural gas site in northern Mozambique, two sources said on Friday, as clashes between Islamic State-linked fighters and the military rage nearby. The company, which last week called off the planned resumption of construction at the $20 billion development due to the violence, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. The government says dozens of people have died since militants launched attacks in the coastal town of Palma last week, in a district near gas projects worth tens of billions of dollars that are meant to transform Mozambique’s economy. The two sources, who have direct knowledge of Total’s operations, said the company decided to withdraw its staff as militants appeared to get closer to the site. They declined to go into further details. Insurgents took over some Mozambican military positions near the Afungi site south of Palma on Friday and the situation was still highly volatile, a separate security source told Reuters. Reuters

Senegal to Open Consulate in Morocco-Controlled Western Sahara
Senegal will open a consulate in Western Sahara on Monday, joining other African and Arab countries in supporting Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory, two official sources said. The consulate will be opened by the Moroccan and Senegalese foreign ministers in the Atlantic city of Dakhla, making Senegal the 22nd nation to establish a diplomatic mission in the territory, the sources said. The Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks independence for Western Sahara, a vast desert region held by Morocco since Spain withdrew in 1975. Morocco has long sought international recognition of its claim to the region it calls its “southern provinces”. The Polisario movement and Algeria have denounced the opening of consulates in the territory. The Polisario Front said on Nov. 13 it had quit a U.N.-brokered ceasefire and declared war, following a Moroccan military move to clear a road that has been blocked for three weeks by pro-Polisario supporters and fighters. Reuters

US Report Cites Rights Abuses in Burundi since 2015
The US government’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices documents human rights violations in Burundi from 2015 to date. “There were numerous reports that the government or its agents, including police, the National Intelligence Service (SNR), military personnel, and elements of the Imbonerakure, committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, often against perceived supporters of the political opposition or those who exercised their lawful rights,” reads part of the report. … Despite the government lifting a ban on one of the several media houses that it had been closed in February this year, media freedom in Burundi remains limited according to the US report. … The US government said that the Media regulatory body (CNC) in Burundi continued to prohibit journalists from providing information to the BBC since its licence was revoked in 2019 and also to the Voice of America since its indefinite ban in April 2019. Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye in January hinted at a possible reopening of media houses that were banned since 2015 under late Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime. So far only one local radio station has reopened, three months after president’s foray into the opening up of media space in the country. The EastAfrican

European Leader Urges Foreign Fighters to Leave Libya
The European Union on Sunday called for the departure of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, describing it as a “precondition” for a return to stability in the war-torn country. At a news conference in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, EU Council President Charles Michel described the appointment of a transitional government earlier this year as a “historic moment.” The government is meant to shepherd the country through until general elections on Dec. 24. “You have created an opportunity to rebuild your country, but there is one precondition — all foreign fighters and troops must leave the country,” he said, urging Libya’s political — and mostly armed — factions to seize a “unique opportunity to build a united sovereign stable and prosperous country.” AP

Female Libyan Activists Demand Politicians Stick to Election Timetable
Women are challenging largely male political class as fears grow ‘dinosaurs’ of Libyan politics will try to cling on to power… Libyan civil activists led by an increasingly assertive group of women are demanding their country’s largely male political class stick to their commitment to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on 24 December, the 70th anniversary of Libya’s independence. The interim government of Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, which was made possible by a ceasefire sealed in October, was sworn in on 15 March. … Only 12% of Libya’s councillors are women, and many women in the past who have put themselves forward have been abducted or assassinated. In a sign that they are still at risk Haneen al-Abdali, the daughter of the human rights lawyer Hanan al-Barassi, who was murdered last November, was “arrested” by militia in Benghazi in March. She was seized hours after going on Facebook to name her mother’s alleged killers – identifying close associates of eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar. The Guardian

22 Mummies Are Moved in a Glittering Display in Cairo
Downtown Cairo came to a near standstill Saturday night as 22 mummies were moved from a museum where they had resided for more than a century to a new home, transported atop custom-made vehicles in a glittering, meticulously planned procession. The fanfare — broadcast live on state television and complete with a military band, a 21-gun salute and a host of Egyptian A-list celebrities — served as both a grand opening of sorts for the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization where the country’s oldest monarchs were set to land and an invitation to tourists to return to Cairo after the pandemic. … Along the five-mile path to the new museum lay stretches of working-class neighborhoods that were deliberately hidden from view ahead of the parade, a reminder of the jarring divide between Egypt’s celebrated past and its uncertain present. … “There is a tendency to try to show a better picture instead of fixing the existing reality,” Ahmed Zaazaa, an urban planner, said of the government’s public image efforts. “The government says they are making reforms, but the vast majority of people in Cairo who live in working-class neighborhoods are excluded.” The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones