Africa Media Review for August 12, 2021

Zambia’s Opposition Leader Warns of Tensions Ahead of Polls
Zambia’s main opposition leader has warned the military deployed on the streets ahead of crucial elections Thursday against “aiding a particular party” and raised concern that the country could fall into chaos if the polls are “mismanaged.” Hakainde Hichilema, addressing reporters Wednesday, spoke of rising tensions including reports of violence between supporters of the major political parties. He said the elections are likely to test the stability of the southern African country’s democracy. President Edgar Lungu, 64, and the 59-year old businessman Hichilema are frontrunners in a field of 16 presidential candidates. National Assembly and local government seats are also being contested. Lungu says he sent the army into the streets last week to curb growing violence, although the opposition claims the move is meant to intimidate its supporters. Hichilema said it was the first time in Zambia’s history that the military was patroling the streets on an election day. “For the first time in the history of our independent Zambia, we have men and women in uniform, more than policemen, in the communities tomorrow. That is new,” Hichilema said, warning that the country’s long-cherished peace is at stake. “That has never happened before. We never had the military manning streets and possibly polling stations. No voter should feel intimidated to go and vote.” AP

Algeria Enters Period of Mourning After Wildfires Kill 65
Devastating wildfires ripping through the mountains of Algeria have killed at least 65 people as of Wednesday, including 28 soldiers working to put out the flames. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced that the country would enter a three-day mourning period starting Thursday, with the suspension of government activity other than actions of solidarity. Dozens of fires developed starting Monday in the Kabylie region, east of the capital, and the army was deployed to battle the blazes and help evacuate residential areas. With homes burning around them, families rushed to escape through blinding smoke. In desperation, some residents tried to extinguish nearby fires by smothering them with tree branches and spraying water on them, armed only with plastic buckets. The flames continued to spread. … The health consequences of the wildfires — including those for 12 soldiers critically injured with burns — pushed against the limits of an already bursting health-care system. Over the past month, average daily new coronavirus cases in Algeria jumped from around 400 a day in early July to over 1,500, fueled by the delta variant. “We are practicing medicine in near war-like conditions,” one nurse told the Africa Report on July 29. Oxygen is in short supply. The Washington Post

Sudan to Transfer Longtime Leader Omar al-Bashir to ICC over Crimes in Darfur
Sudan will hand longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court along with other officials wanted over the Darfur conflict, Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi said on Wednesday. The “cabinet decided to hand over wanted officials to the ICC,” Mahdi was quoted as saying by state media. Bashir, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades before being deposed amid popular protests in 2019, faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The United Nations says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, which erupted in the vast western region in 2003. Bashir, 77, has been wanted by the ICC since 2009, when it issued a warrant for his arrest. The decision to hand him over came during a visit to Sudan by ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan. Sudan has been led since August 2019 by a transitional civilian-military administration that has vowed to bring justice to victims of crimes committed under Bashir. Khartoum signed a peace deal last October with key Darfuri rebel groups, with some of their leaders taking top jobs in government, although violence continues to dog the region. … Human rights groups have long accused Bashir and his former aides of using a scorched earth policy [in Darfur], raping, killing, looting and burning villages. AFP

Ethiopia Armed Group Says It Has Alliance with Tigray Forces
A militant leader in Ethiopia says his group has struck a military alliance with the Tigray forces now pressing toward the country’s capital, as the conflict that erupted in the Tigray region last year spreads into other parts of Africa’s second-most populous country. “The only solution now is overthrowing this government militarily, speaking the language they want to be spoken to,” Oromo Liberation Army leader Kumsa Diriba, also known as Jaal Marroo, told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday. The alliance is a further sign of the broadening of the Tigray conflict that began in November after a political fallout between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray leaders who had dominated Ethiopia’s government for nearly three decades. Thousands have been killed in the nine-month war that has been marked by widespread allegations by ethnic Tigrayans of gang-rapes, man-made famine and mass expulsions by Ethiopian and allied forces. The OLA leader said the agreement was reached a few weeks ago after the Tigray forces proposed it. … Talks are underway on a political alliance as well, he said, and asserted that other groups in Ethiopia are involved in similar discussions: “There’s going to be a grand coalition against (Abiy’s) regime.” … The Tigray forces spokesman has told the AP they are fighting to secure their long-blockaded region but if Abiy’s government topples, “that’s icing on the cake.” AP

US Envoy Meets Libyan Commander to Push for Elections
The U.S. ambassador to Libya met Wednesday with a Libyan military commander amid international efforts to salvage a U.N.-brokered roadmap to elections in the North African country later this year. Richard Norland met with Khalifa Hifter, commander of the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. The meeting was part of U.S. efforts to support Libyan parliamentary and presidential elections in December, the U.S. Embassy said. Norland “continues to focus on the urgency of supporting the difficult compromises necessary to establish the constitutional basis and legal framework needed now in order for the elections to take place on Dec. 24,” the embassy wrote on Twitter. “The United States supports the right of the Libyan people to select their leaders through an open democratic process and calls on key figures to use their influence at this critical stage to do what is best for all Libyans,” it said. The meeting came amid growing tensions between Hifter and the transitional government. Hifter announced earlier this week the promotions of military officers without consulting or getting approval from the ruling Presidential Council. The council’s head serves as the supreme commander of Libya’s fragmented military. AP

Tunisia’s on a Knife-Edge between Reform and Autocracy
On July 25, Tunisia’s president, Kais Saied, made an extraordinary move. After a day of protests throughout the country, some violent, he dismissed the prime minister, lifted politicians’ immunity from criminal prosecution, and suspended the parliament for a month. Now, halfway through that 30-day period, the country is still waiting for word on who the new prime minister might be or what the president’s plan is for extricating the country from its immediate political crises and its longer-term economic malaise. In many ways, Saied’s intervention could be seen coming. Despite corruption, a worsening economy, entrenched unemployment, and growing public anger, Tunisia’s parliament continued to put petty feuds above the country’s welfare. A particular source of tension is the rivalry between Saied and Ennahda, the self styled “Muslim Democrats” who predominate in parliament. Not even the pandemic, which sent deaths spiraling out of control, derailed politicians from their squabbles and factional fighting. FP

Lesotho’s PM Isolating with COVID as Cases ‘Go Unrecorded’
Lesotho’s prime minister, Moeketsi Majoro, has said he is isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, as doctors warned that the true tally of cases in the country was going unrecorded. Majoro tweeted that he had taken a travel-related test that came back positive. He said: “May I advise anyone who has been in close contact with me recently to rush for PCR testing to ensure your safety.” Majoro’s spokesman, Buta Moseme, said the prime minister would remain in quarantine at home, although he was not showing any symptoms. He said Majoro’s oxygen saturation and other tests were satisfactory and that the public should remain calm. “Being vaccinated should not bring about reckless behaviour as an infected person can infect other people who are not vaccinated,” he said. Lesotho, with a population of 2.1 million, has recorded more than 3,000 new Covid-19 cases from the start of May to 10 August. The virus has killed 391 people. A doctor at a private clinic in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, is among those concerned that the National Covid-19 Secretariat is failing to gather data. “In the last month alone, we have seen over 100 patients who are Covid-19 positive but the secretariat has never collected our data,” he told the Guardian. The Guardian

Tanzania Suspends Newspaper for Story on President It Calls “False”
Tanzania on Wednesday suspended for two weeks the newspaper owned by the ruling party after it published a “false” story about President Samia Suluhu Hassan. It was the first time the authorities had slapped such a ban on Uhuru, the paper owned by Samia’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, and the first such action against any media outlet since she took office in March. Uhuru had published a front-page story claiming Hassan — who became president after the sudden death of her predecessor John Magufuli — was not considering running for the presidency in 2025. … CCM secretary general Daniel Chongolo said several editors, including the paper’s chief editor, had also been suspended. During Magufuli’s rule, the increasingly authoritarian leader had cracked down on the media, activists and free speech. In the weeks after her swearing-in, Samia had reached out to the political opposition, vowing to defend democracy and basic freedoms, and reopening banned media outlets. But fears about the future of democracy in the East African country under her leadership were ignited after the arrest last month of the head of the main opposition Chadema party, Freeman Mbowe, and subsequent charges of terrorism against him. AFP

Madagascar President Sacks All His Ministers, Citing ‘Failures in Government’
Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina has sacked all his ministers, his office said, days after he criticised some of their performances as below par and weeks after officials said they had thwarted a plot to kill the former coup leader. Rajoelina’s office gave no reason for the dismissals in a statement issued late on Wednesday. On Sunday, Rajoelina said the performance of some ministers was unsatisfactory. “Like in a football team, you have to change when there are failures in government,” he said in comments broadcast on national television. “There will be a change and this concerns those who do not carry out the work entrusted to them.” Last week, a senior prosecutor said Madagascar had arrested 21 more suspects, including 12 military personnel, in connection with a plot to kill Rajoelina and topple the government. Six people, one of them a French citizen, were arrested last month on suspicion of involvement in the plot, after what officials said was a months-long investigation in the Indian Ocean island. Reuters

AU’s Peacekeeping Force in Somalia Says Investigating Civilian Deaths
The African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia said it had started investigating reports that civilians were killed during a gunfight between its troops and al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters. The force, known as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), said the incident occurred on Tuesday following an ambush, while its soldiers were on patrol along the Beldamin-Golweyn Forward Operating Base in the Lower Shabelle region. There was a heavy exchange of gunfire between AMISOM forces and al Shabaab militants before the patrol team seized firearms, rounds of ammunition and mobile phones, it said in a statement late on Wednesday. “AMISOM has since received reports that civilian lives were lost. To this end, AMISOM has launched a thorough investigation into the reported incident,” it said. Seven civilians were killed in the incident, a farmer in Golweyn village told Reuters on Thursday, including his brother Omar Hassan who owned a farm in the area, a driver and five other farmers. Reuters

Shell to Pay $111m over Decades-Old Oil Spills in Nigeria
Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay around €95m (£80.4m/$111.6m) to communities in southern Nigeria over crude oil spills in 1970, lawyers involved in the case have said. The decision is the latest involving Opec-member Nigeria’s oil-producing south where communities have long fought legal battles over oil spills and environmental damage. “The order for the payment of [$111m] to the claimants is for full and final satisfaction of the judgement,” a local spokesman for Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria said on Wednesday. Lucius Nwosa, a lawyer representing the Ejama-Ebubu community in Rivers state, confirmed the decision. “They ran out of tricks and decided to come to terms,” the lawyer said. “The decision is a vindication of the resoluteness of the community for justice.” “It is a confirmation of the issues we have raised about Shell’s environmental devastation of Ogoni and the need for a proper remediation of the land,” the MOSOP organisation for the local Ogoni people said in response. After a 13-year legal battle, a Dutch court in January this year ordered Shell to compensate Nigerian farmers for spills that polluted much of their land in the Niger Delta. AFP

Nigeria to Concession Four Major International Airports, Rules out Workers Sack
The Nigerian government has provided more details of its plan to concession the four major international airports in the country. The Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, which accounts for over 60 per cent of international flights in Nigeria; Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport; Port Harcourt International Airport and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, are all to be concessioned to private managers, an official said. Aviation minister Hadi Sirika also allayed the fears of workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) of any layoffs during or after the concessions. He gave the assurance at a virtual meeting with aviation stakeholders in Lagos, on Wednesday. Mr Sirika said instead, more hands would be engaged as most of the airports were understaffed. The minister informed the stakeholders that there would not be any need to sell the country’s assets, but to concession them in a manner that would modernise the airports and have them operated to create more jobs as well as generate more revenue for the country. Premium Times

Tunisia Swelters in Record Temperatures
A heatwave broke temperature records in Tunisia’s capital and elsewhere in north and centre of the North African country on Tuesday, according to the national meteorological institute. The temperature in Tunis reached 48 degrees Celsius at midday (118 Fahrenheit), smashing the capital’s previous record high of 46.8 degrees, registered in 1982. The mercury hit between nine and 15 degrees Celsius higher than the seasonal norm in northern and central-eastern parts of the country, the institute said. Temperatures are set to “fall progressively” from Thursday, it added. Tuesday’s highs follow a record high for the south of the country, where the temperature hit 48.5 Celsius on Sunday, according to the institute. The health ministry has advised people not to venture out during the hottest hours of the day and to drink plenty of water, in a post on its Facebook page. The agriculture ministry meanwhile urged farmers to take measures to protect their livestock and crops. In neighbouring Algeria, some fifty fires have been sparked by the heatwave since Monday evening, killing dozens of people, according to authorities. AfricaNews with AFP

World Elephant Day: Inside Kenya’s Indigenously Run Sanctuary for Orphans
In the mountains of northern Kenya, a Samburu community has built a sanctuary for orphaned elephants. Reteti is the first indigenously owned and run sanctuary, which rescues and raises the orphaned elephants, and has the ultimate goal of reintroducing them to the wild. The sanctuary isn’t just about saving elephants but about breaking down stereotypes and redefining wildlife management. It is the beginning of a transformation in the way the Samburu people relate to wild animals. This oasis where orphans grow up, learning to be wild so that one day they can rejoin their herds, is as much about the people as it is about the elephants. Mary Lengees is one of the first female elephant keepers at Reteti, and is seen comforting Suyian (top left), the sanctuary’s first resident. Suyian was rescued in September 2016 when she was just four weeks old. Meal time (bottom left and right) is a noisy, slurpy affair that takes place every three hours around the clock. Each elephant receives milk specially formulated for their particular nutritional needs. Rimland Lemojong, pictured playing with Pokot (top right), a seven-month-old male, says: “When I was a young boy, I first looked after the kids of goats, then goats, then my parents upgraded me to care for cows. Then I went to school. I am so happy because I used to raise my family’s cows here, and now I am raising baby elephants. It’s incredible. “When I go home, my community is asking by name how each elephant is.” The Guardian

International Youth Day: From a Life of Violence to a Culture of Peace
Christian Achaleke spoke to the UN ahead of International Youth Day, which is marked annually on August 12th. “My decision to become a peace activist was influenced by my personal experience. I grew up in a community plagued by violence: it was a way of life. At some point, I came to realize that violence leads us nowhere. I lost some friends and acquaintances, and others were thrown into jail. I began volunteering in 2007, and this gave me a new perspective built around peace and helping to improve communities. It has been an inspiring, life-changing experience. As a young person involved in peacebuilding and countering violent extremism, I find myself speaking to my peers. When I go to prisons to speak to other young people, I can show them that there are better ways to respond to the challenges they face than violence and develop solutions to the drivers of conflicts. However, I would say that our role has been underestimated. Sometimes I feel that communities, leaders and institutions turn a blind eye to what we are doing, even though we are the ones who suffer the most in times of conflict. In Cameroon, we have tried to provide young people with the opportunity to engage in local community peacebuilding and peace process initiatives, giving them guidance, mentorship and support.” UN News



Photo: Adam Jones