Africa Media Review for August 18, 2021

Niger: Gunmen Kill 37 People in Village Attack
Armed men killed 37 civilians, including 14 children, in an attack on a village in southwest Niger, officials said Tuesday. Western Niger has been mired in violence, with frequent attacks on villagers. Militants have massacred hundreds of civilians in the region in this year alone. Unidentified shooters opened fire on Monday in the commune of Banibangou, in the Tillaberi region near Niger’s border with Mali. A local official told AFP news agency that the assailants “arrived on motorbikes” in the village of Darey-Daye in the afternoon as people were working in the fields. “They found people in the fields and shot at anything that moved,” a local journalist told AFP. According to a report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week, at least 420 civilians were killed in jihadi attacks in Tillaberi and the neighboring region of Tahoua this year. “Armed Islamist groups appear to be waging war on the civilian population in western Niger,” Corinne Dufka, the Sahel director for the international rights group, said in the report. DW

Hakainde Hichilema: Zambian Accountant Who Trounced President Lungu
When Zambia’s new President Hakainde Hichilema joined politics in 2006, he was largely viewed as an outsider, inexperienced and elitist. It is an image he seems to have shed off over the years, appearing more ordinary in dress and language. … Mr Hichilema’s firm was at the centre of the privatization drive in the 1990s during economic reforms from a socialist-oriented economy under Kenneth Kaunda to a liberal one that saw the government dispose of several state assets into private hands. … Before this year’s presidential election that he won, he had contested and lost all polls held in the southern African country since 2006, though he was boosted each time by a greater share of the vote. … Most recently, after the 2016 election, he faced treason charges for allegedly failing to give way to a presidential motorcade in the west of the country. He spent 121 days in a maximum-security jail before the charges were dropped. His release was negotiated by the international community. That incident seemed to have baptised him in fire, making him some sort of “political gladiator” as he simultaneously seemed more in command of opposition politics. … Mr [Edgar] Lungu’s six-year rule was criticised for alleged human rights abuses, corruption, a failing economy and massive unemployment. Daily Nation

Hichilema Faces Task of Reviving Zambian Economy after Landslide Win
Zambian President Edgar Lungu conceded defeat on Monday, after a landslide election win by opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who will face the challenge of reviving an economy in turmoil. … Zambia became Africa’s first pandemic-era sovereign default in November after failing to keep up with its international debt payments. … “It is in no doubt what the instruction is to all of us (that you) … elect us to office at a very difficult time,” he said, hinting at the task ahead as he addressed supporters in the capital, Lusaka “We will not let you down.” The default was driven by depressed commodity prices—which had pushed Zambia into recession well before the COVID-19 pandemic—worsened by the pandemic itself. … Hichilema urged Zambians to put aside divisions, condemning attacks on property, after a mall named after the ex-incumbent was looted. “For years we were victims of retribution. We are not about to … start a new wave of violence,” he said. “If you want to show higher moral ground … do not attack them.” Reuters

New Wave of Ethiopian Detentions of Tigrayans Includes Kids
Small children are among those held amid a new wave of detentions of ethnic Tigrayans suspected of supporting Tigray forces in Ethiopia’s growing war, one detainee says, while witnesses and a human rights watchdog describe fresh disappearances in recent weeks. In an interview with The Associated Press on a hidden phone, one of those detained described grim conditions in which more than 700 Tigrayan military members, their families and retirees are held at a camp in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Readily giving his military ID number but speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, the non-combatant said that two detainees died after beatings and another died from lack of medication for a pre-existing condition. “They call us cancers and tell us they will destroy us,” the detainee said, describing how military personnel overseeing the detainees threatened to shoot “each and every one of you” if anyone tried to escape. New detainees continue to arrive, he said, and they have not appeared in court. He listed five children detained who are under 3 years of age. AP

Sudan Still Pushing to Mediate Tigray Conflict: PM Hamdok
Despite rejection from Addis Ababa, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has said his country will continue pushing for a peaceful solution to end the conflict in Ethiopia. He said Sudan had reached out to all sides in a bid to end the conflict. “We will continue to exert all efforts for Ethiopia to become stable, unified and secure,” Hamdok said in a press conference in Khartoum on Sunday. Hamdok called on all parties to the conflict to embrace a peaceful process to end the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. Hamdok, who also is the chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), said his initiative to mediate between the warring Ethiopian parties within the regional bloc’s framework is still in place. … “The relationship with Sudan at this point is a little bit tricky because the level of trust with some leaders has already been eroded particularly with the Sudanese army’s incursion into Ethiopian territory,” said Billene Seyoum, the Ethiopian prime minister’s spokesperson. … Billene said Sudan must first withdraw its troops from Ethiopian territories before playing any mediation roles. Sudan has taken control of most of the land, up to 60 kilometres inside Ethiopia, which it alleges had previously been annexed by its neighbour. East African

Côte d’Ivoire Confirms First Ebola Case in 25 Years
A case of Ebola virus has been confirmed in Côte d’Ivoire for the first time since 1994, the country’s Ministry of Health has confirmed. The World Health Organization (WHO) is coordinating the delivery of vaccines to the country. In a statement released on Saturday, the Côte d’Ivoire country office of the WHO said that the virus was found in samples collected from a patient who was hospitalized in the commercial capital of Abidjan, after arriving from Guinea. Initial investigations found that the patient had travelled to Côte d’Ivoire by road and arrived in Abidjan on 12 August. The patient was admitted to hospital after experiencing a fever and is currently receiving treatment. … This year Ebola outbreaks have been declared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea, but it is the first time an outbreak has occurred in a large capital city such as Abidjan since the 2014–2016 West Ebola outbreak. UN News

SADC Summit Begins in Malawi with Concerns Over COVID-19 Vaccine Hoarding
Malawi president Lazarus Chakwera has urged southern African leaders to increase efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and called on wealthy nations to stop hoarding vaccine. The Malawi leader was speaking at the annual summit of the 16-member Southern African Development Community in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. Speaking during the televised function Tuesday, Chakwera, who is also SADC’s current chairperson, said it was concerning that, despite the devastating social and economic impact of the COVID-19, wealthy nations continue hoarding vaccine. Statistics show that less than 2% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated. … The summit also aims to promote regional trade and building a regional defense force after its first deployment to fight insurgents in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. VOA

Drones, Navies, Attack Boats: Will They be Enough to Tackle the World’s Latest Piracy Hotspot?
Helicopters hover above a patrol vessel in Nigeria’s frenetic Apapa port as attack boats zoom past. On the dock, drones emblazoned with the Nigerian flag sit ready to deploy – all part of a $195 million U.S.-backed “Deep Blue” initiative to deter pirate attacks in the world’s most dangerous area for seafarers. The more than 2.35 million square kilometre (910,000 million square mile) expanse of the Atlantic Ocean that borders some 20 West African nations is known as “pirate alley”, where nearly all the world’s kidnappings at sea now take place since the water off Somalia in East Africa has become more secure. Bashir Jamoh, head of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said “Deep Blue” had stemmed recorded kidnappings in the second quarter, after a record 130 sailors last year, compared with five in the rest of the world. … “If the threat to their ships is not addressed, the entire international trade is affected.” Jamoh said. Unlike in Somalia, which had no navy and limited government capability and thus allowed foreign navies to fire on ships and arrest pirates, only Nigerian security forces are allowed to be armed in the country’s large territorial waters. … Lurking beneath the government’s new show of maritime strength is poverty in the Niger Delta, where nearly all West Africa’s pirates originate. Reuters

A First-hand Account of Police Brutality in Eswatini
[Podcast] Eswatini security forces have killed 70 protesters and arrested more than 600 in the past few months, but it is likely you have heard little to nothing about it. The internet in the small, Southern African country has been regularly shut down over the past few weeks, and journalists intimidated, arrested, and beaten. In this episode, we talk to one of them. Al Jazeera

Morocco Fights Forest Fires as Situation in Algeria Brought ‘under Control’
Firefighters in northern Morocco are battling to put out two forest blazes, as the north African kingdom swelters in a heatwave. Most of the forest fires that have hit neighbouring Algeria in the past week are now “under control” and no longer endanger residents, according to emergency services. “Non-stop efforts are underway to control the fires which broke out on Saturday afternoon,” said Rachid El-Anzi, director of the Moroccan water and forestry department in the Chefchaouen region. He said firefighting planes were being used to tackle the conflagrations which had already destroyed some 200 hectares of forest. Several parts of the north African kingdom have recorded temperatures of up to 49°C, according to weather authorities. … Morocco joins several other Mediterranean countries that have seen forest fires in recent weeks, including neighbouring Algeria where at least 90 people were killed in wildfires last week. RFI

Algeria: 61 Arrested after Mob Kills Man Falsely Accused of Starting Deadly Fires
Algerian police have announced another 25 arrests over the lynching of a man falsely accused of starting deadly forest fires last week, taking the total number of suspects to 61. The latest arrests were made in several provinces across the country, police said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the suspects were also accused of damaging public and police property. The victim, Djamel Ben Ismail, 38, had turned himself in at a police station in the Tizi Ouzou region, which was worst hit by the fires, after hearing he was suspected of involvement. Videos posted online show a crowd surrounding a police van and beating a man inside it. They then drag him out and set him on fire, with some taking selfies. … The fires, spurred by a blistering heatwave, killed at least 90 people in the North African country, with authorities blaming arsonists and “criminals” for the outbreaks. … But Said Salhi, vice-president of Algeria’s Human Rights League, told AFP: “Only a fair trial can uncover the truth and give justice to Djamel.” The Guardian

DR Congo Extends Military Rule in Eastern Provinces
The parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo has voted to extend the state of emergency in Ituri and North Kivu – the two eastern provinces that have been rocked by insecurity. The state of emergency imposed by President Félix Tshisekedi on 6 May has been extended six times now. Out of 335 MPs, 334 voted in favour while one abstained. Military administrations have replaced the civilian authorities to curb insecurity in the provinces where several attacks carried out by rebels have left thousands dead. The violence has been on the increase despite the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers. Some of the attacks have been blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – one of the dozens of armed groups operating there. The eastern provinces have also seen violence between ethnic groups. BBC

Burkina Faso: Thomas Sankara Assassination Trial to Begin on 11 October
The long-awaited trial for the murder of Thomas Sankara – assassinated in a coup d’etat which brought exiled former president Blaise Compaore to power – has been set for 11 October, military prosecutors have announced. Compaore and 13 others have been charged by a military tribunal over the death of Sankara – a charismatic revolutionary figure whom some referred to as the African Che Guevara. Tuesday’s announcement came in a statement from prosecutors at the military tribunal in capital Ouagadougou. … Guy Hervé Kam, one of the lawyers representing families of victims, told RFI it was a victory and “a time for truth” for the families. “It’s been a long wait to establish in a clear, precise and public way, who was individually or collectively responsible for the events which led to the tragedy on 15 October 1987,” he said. … Compaore and 12 others face charges of harming state security, complicity in murder and complicity in the concealment of corpses. Among those accused alongside Compaore is General Gilbert Diendere, Compaore’s former right-hand man and a former head of the elite Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) at the time of the coup. Diendere is already serving a 20-year sentence in Burkina Faso for masterminding a plot in 2015 against the West African country’s transitional government. He is believed to have headed the unit that killed Sankara. RFI

Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Seeks Extradition of Accused Former Government Officials Indicted for Corruption
The Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has guaranteed that it will follow all necessary extradition procedures with the Government of the United States to ensure the prosecution of former and suspended Liberian public officials who are accused or indicted in audit and investigative reports released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and other anti-graft institutions operating in the country. The LACC conducts investigations on acts of corruption involving public officials and institutions in Liberia, while the GAC conducts audits on public officials and institutions. Addressing a news conference held at the commission’s offices in Congo Town, outside Monrovia on Monday, August 16, the Chairperson of the LACC, Counselor Edward Kla Martin, emphasized that the latest assurance given by the United States to the Government of Liberia and its people will be used to go after those who see the Americas as a safe place for them. Front Page Africa