Africa Media Review for August 10, 2021

Deadly Clashes Threaten South Sudan’s Shaky Peace Deal
A decade after South Sudan gained independence amid much hope and fanfare, the country’s path to lasting stability remains fragile as infighting tears at the shaky coalition governing the world’s youngest nation. Over the weekend, clashes within one faction in the national unity government may have left as many as several dozen people dead, according to officials. The flare-up of violence inflamed long-simmering divisions and raised concerns about the future of the tenuous peace agreement signed three years ago by rival ethnic factions led by the country’s president and vice president. Now, just over 10 years since the people of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to separate from Sudan after years of repressive rule, the question is whether leaders of the long-warring factions within South Sudan can bridge their differences and build a future together. The need for undivided and undiverted leadership is great: the nation currently faces a dire humanitarian crisis with millions of people struggling to get enough food, tens of thousands displaced by severe flooding and a rise in coronavirus cases while few vaccines have been delivered. … “The inevitable conclusion is that South Sudan’s post-independence leaders failed to live up to their commitments and the expectations of South Sudanese citizens,” ​​Luka Biong Deng Kuol, an academic and a former South Sudanese minister, recently wrote in an analysis for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The New York Times

What Does the UN Climate Report Mean for Africa?
The report warned of more extreme weather in the coming years. It said humanity will suffer the consequences of rising sea levels and melting Arctic ice, before urging drastic cuts to emissions in order to hold the global temperature to under the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. “All of Africa, in general, is vulnerable, given the level of development. The entire continent is highly exposed to climate extremes, at a relatively high level of vulnerability, which amplifies the problems that the continent is experiencing, including poverty, limited infrastructure, conflicts and urbanization in development,” said Youba Sokona, vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) when asked by Africanews about what the report means for Africa. The IPCC provided a two-page fact sheet on observed and projected climate trends in Africa, but the paucity of data is inescapable in the maps. Of the nine African sub-regions, the IPCC noted an observed increase in extreme rainfall for just two — western and eastern southern Africa. For the other seven it said “limited data and/or literature” were available. Only half of the sub-regions provided sufficient data to determine an increase in rates of drought. AfricaNews

Tigray Aid Response Hit by Suspensions, Blockade
The suspension of two major international relief organisations in Ethiopia could further worsen the humanitarian situation in Tigray, where an aid blockade is still effectively in place, even as conflict spreads into neighbouring regions and hundreds of thousands of people face famine. The blockade, and a cash crunch caused by limited banking services in Tigray, have left aid groups struggling to function, and led to increased concerns about the welfare of the roughly 500 aid workers – both national and international – based in the region. … “The message [from the government] is that if you want to continue your programme in the country – let alone Tigray – then you will be silent,” said a senior aid official who is not based in Ethiopia but is working closely with colleagues on the ground. The official, and three others who spoke to The New Humanitarian over the past week, all asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from the government against their organisations and staff members in Ethiopia. Tigray’s nine-month conflict has expanded in recent weeks as rebels push deeper into neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions, uprooting some 250,000 people, according to the UN. … Many view the blockade as a military strategy by a government unable to beat the TDF on the battlefield. “I think it is the only viable weapon they now have,” said Mohamed Kheir Omer, a political analyst closely following the conflict. The New Humanitarian

‘Our Morgues Are Full’: Zimbabwe Struggles with Surge in COVID Burials
A group of women sing hymns at the cemetery in Harare as undertakers, dressed in Covid-19 protective gear, gently lower a white casket into the grave. “This world is not our home,” they sing, as relatives, standing a few metres away, mourn their loss. The deceased is a 31-year-old man who died from coronavirus. He arrived at the hospital too late to be helped. As this group of mourners leave, another hearse pulls up at Warren Hills cemetery to bury another Covid-19 victim. About half a dozen burials will be conducted in quick succession over the day in an effort to keep up with the grim task of burying Zimbabwe’s dead, as the third wave of the virus continues to claim hundreds of lives every week. According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, almost half of the country’s total Covid deaths up to that point occurred in July. Over the course of the month, 58,996 infections were recorded, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, and more than 1,700 people died. To date, a total of 3,826 deaths have been recorded by the World Health Organization since March last year. The huge increase has overwhelmed undertakers, resulting in delayed burials, authorities have admitted. The Guardian

South Africa: Rural Residents’ COVID-19 Vaccination Struggles
Elderly residents in particular face a number of hurdles, from struggling with technology and internet access to the cost of travelling to a vaccination centre. ith the third wave of Covid-19 infections slowly winding down in Gauteng, many elderly residents of the Eastern Cape are worried that their province could be next in line for a surge in infections. Most of them fear the Delta variant of the coronavirus, saying “it kills fast.” Residents over the age of 60 in Zixinene village in kwaMathole, Middledrift, are particularly concerned about the third wave. Retired teacher Gosa Salusalu, 61, said, “We have seen people die in large numbers in 2020 and there is no way to ignore the instructions. Whether you have cultural or religious beliefs, it is wise to be vaccinated. In fact, I even decided to take my 94-year-old mother to get the vaccine at Middledrift Health Centre. The process was smooth. I could not leave her behind, considering that she is ageing.” Many people in rural villages have struggled to register on the government’s digital portal, the Electronic Vaccination Data System. Former acting minister of health Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane urged the public a few weeks ago to help senior citizens register online. “I remember in the 1940s, we heard about destructive illnesses. But viruses such as HIV came to us as a shock,” said Lady Girl Nomawethu Peter, 75. “Now it is the corona which scares me every day.” New Frame

Guinea Orders 155 People into Isolation After West Africa’s First Case of Marburg Virus Is Detected
Guinea has ordered 155 people into quarantine after confirming West Africa’s first known case of Marburg virus, a hemorrhagic fever known as Ebola’s cousin that has killed one person in the nation’s forested south. Health officials scrambled Tuesday to trace everyone who may have interacted with the patient, who had sought medical help in the town of Gueckedou near the high-traffic border with Liberia and Sierra Leone. The infection emerged in the same area where the deadliest Ebola epidemic on record began. That 2014-2016 outbreak killed at least 11,325 people across three West African countries. Guinea had just recovered from a smaller scare earlier this year — a resurgence of Ebola in February that claimed 12 lives. The 155 suspected contact cases are undergoing 21 days of isolation, Guinea’s Health Ministry said. “The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks,” Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement. … Guinea’s battle against Marburg starts as the country of nearly 13 million struggles against a third wave of the coronavirus. Daily case counts in August are nearing spring highs as health officials lobby for more vaccines. Less than 4 percent of people in the nation are fully vaccinated. The Washington Post

Mozambique’s President Unveils Southern African Troops to Fight Insurgents
Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi on a visit to the troubled northern Cabo Delgado province Monday, unveiled the Southern African troops sent to fight the region’s insurgents. The Southern African Development Community’s Standby Force includes troops from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania. The SADC troops are being deployed as Mozambican and Rwandan troops on Sunday say they retook a key port city that the Islamist militants held for two years. In a live broadcast on state radio and television Monday from Cabo Delgado’s provincial capital, Pemba, President Filipe Nyusi addressed southern African troops deployed to the region to fight insurgents. Southern African Development Community members Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania are the first in the 16-member group to send troops to Mozambique. Nyusi thanked SADC for its engagement and underscored the need to coordinate in battling the Islamist militants. To the SADC standby forces who are here, he says, we appeal once again for greater coordination on the operational theater and rigorous observation of the benchmarks of responsibility, strategically defined. Nyusi says they demand communication, exchange of operative information on the ground, discipline and respect for human life. VOA

Southeast Nigerians Protest over Fate of Separatist Leader, Wider Grievances
Southeastern Nigerian city centres were deserted on Monday as many people stayed at home to show solidarity with a detained separatist leader and to express broader grievances about how the country is run, residents said. The stay-at-home protest was called by the banned group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), whose leader Nnamdi Kanu was brought back to Nigeria in June after years on the run and is in custody pending a trial on 11 charges including treason. Residents of southeastern centres including the trading hub Onitsha and the cities of Enugu, Awka and Owerri said usually busy markets were quiet, roads clear of traffic and even some students who were due to sit exams had not turned up. IPOB campaigns for southeastern Nigeria, homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, to split from Nigeria. The region attempted to secede in 1967 under the name Republic of Biafra, triggering a three-year civil war in which more than a million people died, mostly of starvation. Despite an official “no victor no vanquished” policy adopted after Biafra was defeated, many Igbo feel that they have persistently been the victims of discrimination by the federal government and wider society. Reuters

Somalia Sets up National Payments System as It Rebuilds Country
Somalia has set up a national payments system as part of plans to develop the financial industry in one of the world’s most fragile states, following decades of political and economic instability. The 13 lenders in the Horn of Africa nation can now “become inter-operable, connected to the clearing and settlement system of the central bank and able to transact with each other,” Central Bank of Somalia Governor Abdirahman M. Abdullahi said in an interview. The system will “facilitate transactions between vendors and their customers more efficiently.” Somalia is struggling to rebuild after 20 years of civil war and is still battling an insurgency by al Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate. The government last year secured a debt-relief deal with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as it sought to return to the global financial system. The authorities are now in talks with lenders who aren’t part of the Paris Club, an informal group of mostly rich western government creditors, to potentially further reduce the nation’s liabilities that stood at $4.5 billion in June. Under the system, the central bank connects lenders to a clearing and settlements platform to enable them to process real-time money transfers. It also includes interoperability capabilities for debit and credit cards, mobile network operators and automated cash machines. Al Jazeera

Can Sudan’s Creaking Colonial Railway Help the Country Get Back on Track?
Sitting next to the colonial British railway director’s old residence on the banks of the Nile River, the general manager of the Sudanese Railways Corporation chuckles to himself. Over a well-sugared tea and plain biscuits, Waleed Mahmoud Ahmed slowly explains his grand task. He must find a way to resurrect the third-largest railway network in Africa and restore one of his country’s proudest institutions to its former glory. “It’s not good at all,” he says. “The policies of the last regime destroyed a large part of our railways.” Last month, Sudan announced a half billion-pound plan to revamp its decrepit railway network that was first built more than a century ago by invading British colonialists. It is one part of the new government’s plan to fundamentally rebuild the state after the dictatorship of Omar Bashir, ended in a 2019 revolution. The World Food Programme (WFP) told the Telegraph that a functioning railway system in this corner of the world could throw a “lifeline” to millions, helping humanitarians get food to the starving in Darfur, South Sudan and Tigray. The modern history of Sudan can be told through its railways, argues Mustapha Ahmed Fadul, the director of a small lovingly-kept museum in the junction town of Atbara, a short stroll from decaying, palatial colonial residence. Telegraph

Africa’s First Digital Map of Its Land Reveals a Surprising Fact about Its Trees
As Africa registered a significant first, becoming the first continent in the world to complete its digital land-use data, new revelations emerged about its trees outside of key forests in Africa. There are more trees in Africa than initially thought, with the latest study showing there are about 7 billion trees on the continent, not counting the continent’s major woodlands like the Congo rainforest. This is according to a recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The open data initiative that covered the period between 2018 and 2020, disclosed more forests and arable lands than were previously detected. FAO said the findings reveal huge opportunities for the management of the environment, agriculture, and land use in Africa, and increase countries’ ability to track changes and conduct analyses for informed sustainable production, restoration interventions, and climate action. Consequently, countries can detect where deforestation is happening, where settlement land is encroaching on cropland or grassland and where the wetland is being lost. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones