Africa Media Review for April 6, 2021

Nearly 2,000 Prisoners Escape Jail in South-East Nigeria
Almost 2,000 prisoners have escaped after a jailbreak in south-east Nigeria blamed on armed separatists, in the latest in a string of armed attacks on law enforcement authorities. A prison facility and police command centre in the city of Owerri, Imo state, was targeted early on Monday by gunmen who destroyed part of the prison walls with explosives, freeing 1,844 inmates. One police officer was shot and injured in the attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police said the gunmen were from the Eastern Security Network – a military wing of the dominant pro-Biafra secessionist group in southeast Nigeria, the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob). … Nigerian authorities have been accused of unlawful arrests of Biafran activists and rights abuses. Attacks on police and state facilities have risen in recent months. … President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack as an “act of terrorism” from London, where he is having a two-week medical checkup, according to his spokesman. The Guardian

‘Some Hid in the Sea’: Islamist Attack on Mozambique Town a Turning Point in Africa’s Ignored War
The attack bore all the hallmarks of the Islamist insurgents that have terrorised Mozambique’s far northern Cabo Delgado region for the past three years. Gunmen converged on a refugee-filled town. They waited, cutting off access by road. Then, at about 4pm on March 24, they opened fire. More than a hundred insurgents laid waste to the coastal town of Palma, destroying civic buildings, robbing and setting fire to at least one bank and killing dozens of people, according to Mozambican officials, security consultants and a report by the African Union seen by the Financial Times. Thousands fled the violence. On Sunday Mozambique’s army said that the town was safe again and “significant numbers” of insurgents were dead after days of battle. But analysts said the attack on Palma was an inflection point in what has until now been a widely ignored African war. FT

Group Says Death Toll Now 50 from Clashes in Sudan’s Darfur
The death toll from tribal violence in Sudan’s Darfur region climbed to at least 50 as sporadic clashes continued on Tuesday, a local medical group and aid worker said. The violence poses a challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in areas like Darfur, where conflict often falls along ethnic lines. The latest clashes grew out of a shooting on Saturday that killed two people from the Masalit tribe in a camp for displaced people in Genena, the capital of West Darfur province, according to the U.N. humanitarian affairs agency. Two others from the Masalit tribe were wounded in that shooting, it said. Fighting ensued between the Rizeigat and the Masalit tribes, with both mobilizing armed men. Gunfire could still be heard in Genena late Monday, the U.N. said. Authorities have declared a state of emergency in West Darfur. AP

Powerful Armed Group in Central African Republic Vows to Leave Rebel Coalition
The most powerful of the Central African Republic’s armed groups said in a statement Monday it will quit a rebel coalition aiming to unseat President Faustin Archange Touadera. The Unity for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), mainly active in the country’s east, “commits to withdraw from the Coalition of Patriots for Change” (CPC), the group’s head Ali Darassa wrote. The coalition is an alliance of some of the war-torn country’s most powerful armed groups, who joined together on December 19 accusing Touadera, the frontrunner in the December 27 elections, of trying to fix the vote. Its components were drawn from militia groups that, together, controlled two-thirds of the impoverished country. … The UPC, the statement continued, “reiterates its commitment to the Khartoum Accord process,” a peace agreement signed in February 2019 between the government and 14 armed groups. … The UPC announcement came just days after another powerful group in the CPC announced that its chief had died from wounds suffered during an attack, in another blow to the rebel alliance. AFP

Several Dozen Jihadists, Including Commander, Killed in Mali: UN
More than 40 jihadists, including a senior commander, were killed last week after they attacked United Nations peacekeepers in northern Mali, the UN force MINUSMA said on Monday. A UN source previously said about 20 of around 100 assailants were killed in a three-hour counter-attack after they raided a camp of Chadian peacekeepers, leaving four troops dead. But on Monday, MINUSMA chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif said a search of the battlefield on Sunday and Monday showed that the death toll among the attackers was roughly twice this number. “As of today, we have counted more than 40 dead terrorists, including a right-hand man to Iyad Ag Ghaly, by the name of Abdallaye Ag Albaka,” Annadif told AFP. Ag Ghaly, a veteran jihadist, is leader of the shadowy Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) in the Sahel, affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The Defense Post with AFP

US Urges De-Escalation between Sudan, Ethiopia
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday pressed for an easing of tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia as fears grow of a spillover from the bloody Tigray conflict. In a telephone call with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Blinken raised “the need to de-escalate tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia over the Al-Fashaqa border area, including recent commitments to engage in dialogue to resolve the issue,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. The fertile area claimed by both countries has seen a rise in skirmishes as Sudan sends in troops, which Ethiopia has described as an invasion. … Blinken also discussed the latest attempts to jumpstart diplomacy on the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Addis Ababa is moving ahead on despite protests from Sudan and Egypt which rely heavily on Nile water. AFP

Somali Leaders Fail to Agree on Agenda for Crucial Poll Meeting
Somalia’s leaders have failed to agree on the main agenda for a crucial electoral meeting, reflecting the unattended fissures between them. Publicly, they promised to try again on Tuesday, even as the country becomes sorely late on elections initially planned for February this year. The agenda-setting meeting brought together President Mohamed Farmaajo and leaders of the five Federal Member States (FMS) plus the Governor of Benadir region, the metropolis of Mogadishu. The five are Said Abdulahi Deni of Puntland, Ahmed Abdi Qoorqoor of Galmudug, Abdiaziz Hassan Laftagareen of South West, Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe of Jubaland and Ali Gudlawe Hussein of Hirshabelle. Others in the meeting at the ‘Big Tent,’ a large makeshift structure inside the heavily-guarded airport perimeter were Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and the Mayor of Mogadishu, Omar Mohamed Filish. The talks opened by President Farmaajo on Sunday afternoon looked to be at an ‘initial groundwork’ stage, as parties still harboured mistrust for each other. The EastAfrican

COVID-19: South Africa, Zimbabwe Rush to Contain Potential Surge
South Africa’s COVID-19 infection rates have remained low in the run-up to Easter, but fears of a third wave are mounting. Meanwhile, Africa’s top health official has sounded alarm bells over a new Tanzanian variant. … Shabi Mahdi, professor of Vaccinology at the University of Witwatersrand, suggests South Africa’s ‘second wave,’ which came in December, was partly driven by the spread of the new B.1.351 [South African] variant. The country’s inability to enforce coronavirus restrictions might as well added to the high number of infections. “In Europe, tighter restrictions were imposed when the case numbers rose. In South Africa, we did the opposite. We started with very high levels of restriction, and when we weren’t able to sustain those, we became more lenient and loosened them,” Mahdi told DW. …Wolfgang Preiser and his team are already preparing for the third wave by increasing testing capacities. Since many people continue to ignore the coronavirus regulations, experts expect infection rates to rise again after the Easter holiday. … Meanwhile, concern is rising over a new coronavirus variant found in a person traveling from Tanzania to Angola. The African Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the variant had about 40 mutations. DW

SADC “Concerned” over Cabo Delgado Violence
With a meeting of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security looming large to address the northern Mozambique situation, the regional bloc expressed “deep concern” about continued terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, “especially for the lives and welfare of residents who continue to suffer from atrocious, brutal and indiscriminate assaults.” The security organ is led by Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who will chair the meeting in Maputo, apparently on Thursday (8 April). Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) and Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe) also serve on it. SADC executive secretary Stergomena Tax invited three more SADC member states (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, the SADC troika) to the Mozambican capital for the meeting to deliberate on measures to address terrorism. Masisi is reported by SADC as saying recent attacks, centred on Palma in Cabo Delgado, heightened insecurity and created a serious humanitarian crisis. defenceWeb

Mozambique Attack Survivors Turned Back by Tanzania, UN Says
The United Nations raised the alarm on Monday over reports that Tanzania forcibly returned hundreds of Mozambicans fleeing jihadist raids last month. Thousands of people fled into surrounding forest when Islamic State-linked militants launched attacks on the northeastern town of Palma on March 24, ransacking buildings and beheading civilians. Stranded in the bush with little access to food or water, some of the escapees headed south but others walked north to the Tanzanian border. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it had received reports that “around 600 Mozambican asylum seekers” who crossed into Tanzania had been pushed back across the border. “UNHCR is concerned with reports of families prevented from seeking asylum and/or being forcibly returned from Tanzania,” the agency said in a statement. AFP

‘No Other Home’: Refugees in Kenya Camps Devastated over Closure
On March 24, Kenyan Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i declared the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) had two weeks to come up with a plan for closing the Dadaab and Kakuma camps, which between them host some 410,000 people from more than a dozen countries, including Somalis, South Sudanese, Ethiopians, Tanzanians, Ugandans and Burundians. Otherwise, authorities warned, they would force refugees to travel to the border with Somalia. In a tweet, Kenya’s interior ministry called this an “ultimatum” and said there was no room for further negotiations. … In response to Kenya’s announcement, the UNHCR said it was grateful for the generosity of the Kenyan government for hosting so many refugees for so long (Dadaab was established some 30 years ago), but was “concerned about the impact this decision would have on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” … Kenya’s government previously tried to close Dadaab in 2016, after intelligence reports appeared to show that 2013 and 2015 attacks on Kenyan targets had links to the camps. The closure was blocked by Kenya’s high court. Al Jazeera

Strike over Civilian Massacres Brings DR Congo’s East to a Halt
Two cities in eastern DR Congo were “paralysed” Monday, local sources said, on the first day of protest strikes over continuing massacres of civilians which the army and UN peacekeepers have failed to stop. Pressure groups including Veranda Mutshanga and Fight for Change (Lucha) called at the weekend for people to halt their normal routines for 10 days in the Beni region and Butembo in the east of the sprawling Democratic Republic of Congo. Directed at the UN’s MONUSCO peacekeeping mission and the national army, the strikes aim to “confront them with their responsibility over the massacres,” Lucha activist Clovis Mutsuva said. Sylvain Kanyamanda, mayor of regional economic hub Butembo, told AFP that “young people from Lucha demonstrated outside the MONUSCO office… Economic operators haven’t been able to work. Schools are closed, it’s paralysing the city.” AFP

Cameroonian Cleric Known for Advocating for Peace Dies at 90
Cameroonians are mourning the death of Christian Wiyghan Tumi, a Catholic cardinal who was well known for advocating for peace in the ongoing Anglophone separatist crisis in the country. The 90-year-old cleric was abducted for 24 hours by the separatist fighters in November for asking them to disarm. The Roman Catholic Church said Tumi died in the coastal city of Douala on Saturday. Tumi gained popularity when he advised the long-serving, 88-year-old Cameroonian President Paul Biya against running for presidential elections but Biya refused. Following the announcement of Tumi’s death, local stations such as Equinoxe TV, Royal FM and Magic FM broadcast some of his sermons, which were aimed at rooting out corruption in the country. VOA