Africa Media Review for August 19, 2021

Dozens Killed in Suspected Jihadist Attack in Northern Burkina Faso
Suspected jihadists have killed 47 people, including 30 civilians, in an attack on a convoy in northern Burkina Faso, the government said Wednesday. The assault left 14 soldiers and three militia volunteers dead 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Gorgadji, said the communications ministry. Gorgadji is in the notorious “three-border” zone where Burkina Faso meets Mali and Niger, a focus of the jihadist violence that plagues the wider Sahel region. The soldiers and militia had been “guarding civilians setting off for Arbinda”, another town in northern Burkina. In an ensuing gun battle, security forces killed 58 “terrorists” and put the rest to flight, according to the government. Wednesday’s was the third attack in the past two weeks against Burkinabe soldiers in which 10 or more people have died, including one on August 4 with a toll of 30 — 11 of them civilians. AFP

Taliban Triumph Means More Worries in Africa
For over a decade now, there’s been a surge in the activities of extremist groups in East and West Africa, the Sahel, and parts of southern Africa. Many are Islamist militant groups with some form of affiliation to al-Qaeda, an organization the United Nations (UN) has said shares links with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Somalia-based media affiliated with the homegrown al-Shabab group hailed the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan in what could be seen as a show of support, says London-based political analyst Ahmed Rajab. “We are not so sure of the link between the Taliban and al-Shabab, whether these links are opportunistic on the part of al-Shabab or whether they are indeed organic links between the two movements,” Rajab told DW. … The executive director of the West Africa Centre for Counter-Extremism (WACCE), Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar, told DW that extremists groups in Africa will only become emboldened by the happenings in Afghanistan. There is the tendency to “offer not only hope but some sense of legitimacy, a false sense of legitimacy,” for groups hoping to topple governments in the regions they operate, he said. … “In many of cases, if we go into terrorism-afflicted states across the African continent, we see that these militant groups are actually surrogating the services of the state,” he said. Extremists often provide the judicial and social services that have collapsed in many African countries and then exploit that to win support. DW

In Mali, Fears of Sharing Afghanistan’s Fate
Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban after a US pullout has raised the spectre of a similar drama in the West African state of Mali, where France has pledged a military drawdown next year. “Should we brace for the same scenario as in Kabul?” was the headline Wednesday in the Malian daily Le Soir de Bamako. Mali is the epicentre of a brutal jihadist conflict in the Sahel to which France has committed troops, jets and drones to shore up fragile allies. Paris first intervened in Mali in 2013, beating back a jihadist advance from the desert north of the country. But the Islamists regrouped and spilled into central Mali, as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, inflaming ethnic tensions along the way. Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died and more than two million people have been displaced in the impoverished region, despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops. In June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a major scaleback of the French military presence. France will close its bases in northern Mali in Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu by early 2022. AFP

Somalia Security Forces Kill 25 Shabaab Fighters
The Somali government says a joint operation by army and local forces in the central regions have killed 25 Al-Shabaab fighters. According to a statement from the Ministry of Information, this came after fighting on Tuesday and Wednesday, which also saw the demise of five Galmudug State combatants allied to the federal government. “On our side, among those who lost their precious lives was the commander of Galmudug’s Horseed Battalion, Mohamed Ali,” the statement issued on Wednesday said, adding that the bulk of the fighting took place at Aad Village in Mudug region. Over the last two months, the Somali army has worked with Galmudug State forces to wage military offensives against Al-Shabaab strongholds in Mugug region, seizing strategic towns such as Ba’aadweyn and Qay’ad. The forces are getting closer to Haradhere, a former hub notorious for harbouring Somali pirates, but lately held by the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab group. On Monday, the Somali government stated that in operations over the last months, it had killed hundreds of jihadist militants. The EastAfrican

COVID Pandemic Exposes Somalia’s Weak Health Care System
Rights group Amnesty International says Somalia’s struggling health care system has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic. The group released a report Wednesday titled ‘We Just Watched COVID-19 Patients Die.’ It calls for urgent investment in Somalia’s healthcare sector after years of neglect. Amnesty International’s 27-page report on Somalia’s health care says the global pandemic has hit the struggling sector hard. The Amnesty report quoted a senior Somali doctor saying in one ward on the same day four elderly men died within ten minutes because of lack of oxygen. The rights group’s Somali researcher Abdullahi Hassan says health resources are so poor that medical workers too often could only stand by and watch their patients die. … Amnesty says the Somali government allocates only 2% of its budget to healthcare while security services got the largest share, with 31%. Officially, Somalia has had more than 16,000 infections and almost 900 deaths from COVID. But, the country’s chief medical officer, Dr. Mohamed Mohamud Ali, told Amnesty the death toll was certainly far higher. Dr. Ali said only those who managed to get to health facilities and get tested were included in official data. “The figure is just a tip of the iceberg,” Amnesty quoted him saying, “many more were infected and died at home,” he said. VOA

Kenya Extends Curfew, Suspends Gatherings amid Spike in COVID Cases
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has extended the ongoing nationwide curfew for a further 60 days, citing escalating Covid-19 infections. In a statement on Wednesday, the Head of State further lifted the differentiated curfew hours and specific restrictions for the previously identified Covid-19 hotspot zones of Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Busia, Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Kisii, Nyamira, Kericho, Bomet and Trans Nzoia counties. The counties will now observe the nationwide curfew prescriptions of 10pm to 4am. President Kenyatta further suspended all physical public gatherings and meetings, including political rallies and campaign meetings for impending by-elections. He urged Kenyans to strictly follow the Covid-19 containment protocols and get vaccinated following a spike of infections and deaths. The EastAfrican

‘They Are out for Revenge’: Evidence of War Crimes as Rebels Roar out of Ethiopia’s Tigray Region
Since the conflict began nine months ago, dozens of reports and investigations have unearthed horrendous crimes against ethnic Tigrayans by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. But after a shock turnaround in the war in June, where rebels beat two of the largest armies in Africa out of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the Tigrayans have the upper hand. An investigation found that rebel forces systematically destroyed farming communities and indiscriminately shelled civilian areas in a series of horrific revenge attacks in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. “They are out for revenge and will gladly attack civilian areas;’ said Amir Gezahegn, who is one of about 200,000 ethnic Amhara Ethiopians who have been displaced by recent fighting. “It wasn’t even safe in our homes, they used artillery against entire neighbourhoods:’ Half a dozen fleeing !DPs from several towns and villages in the Amhara region said that Tigrayan fighters indiscriminately shelled their communities in the North Wollo district between late July and early August. Some said the fighters also went from house to house, killing people and setting every home alight. Telegraph

Turkey Offers to Mediate between Ethiopia and Sudan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday backed a peaceful resolution for the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia that has displaced tens of thousands and left millions hungry. He also said Turkey was willing to mediate between Ethiopia and Sudan to resolve a separate border dispute. Erdogan spoke during a joint news conference with visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The visit comes amid a broadening of the conflict in Tigray, which began in November after a political fallout between Abiy and the leaders of the Tigray region who had dominated Ethiopia’s government for nearly three decades. Thousands have been killed in the nine-month war in Tigray that has been marked by widespread allegations by ethnic Tigrayans of gang rapes, manmade local famines and mass expulsions of Tigrayans by Ethiopian and allied forces. … On Wednesday, Erdogan and Abiy oversaw the signing of military agreements, including a military financial cooperation deal. Details of the deals were not immediately available. AP

SADC Summit: A New Terrorism Centre and New Executive Secretary, but Where Was eSwatini?
As southern African leaders returned home from Malawi after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit, their meeting left observers with more questions than answers about the region. The 41st Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government was held in Lilongwe on 17 and 18 August. “As we close, I dare say that this summit has been constructive and progressive towards our shared goals of regional integration and economic cooperation,” said Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera, who took over from Mozambique as rotational chair of the 16-member body. Chakwera’s new role was a positive sign for SADC, a region dominated by the legacy of liberation movements, said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies. Chakwera was an opposition candidate who became president after court intervention to uphold the result. Joining him at the table soon will be Zambia’s newly elected president Hakainde Hichilema, who also comes from the opposition benches. … “I find it very concerning that eSwatini is not mentioned in the final communiqué,” said Louw-Vaudran. “It’s not as if it wasn’t on the agenda so why wasn’t it in the final communiqué?” In July, SADC dispatched a fact-finding mission to Africa’s last absolute monarchy after weeks of unrest that left dozens of people dead and R3 billion in damage. News24

‘I Ran, My Heart Was Broken’: Inside Mozambique’s Evolving Cabo Delgado Conflict
Since late July small military detachments from other African countries have been arriving in the Cabo Delgado region after an agreement among the Southern African Development Community (SADC) marked by delay and tensions. Tanzania, Botswana and Lesotho are sending soldiers, Zimbabwe is sending military training personnel and Angola is providing aircraft, while off the coast of the province’s capital city of Pemba sits the Warrior-class navy patrol ship SAS Makhanda of South Africa and there have been reports of sightings of armoured vehicles crossing the border between the two nations. Last week it was a Rwandan-led operation that saw the port town of Mocímboa da Praia, the centre of Mozambique’s war, reclaimed from al-Shabaab. But most of Mozambique’s neighbours have problems of their own, and there are political tensions with South Africa. Mozambique’s president Filipe Nyusi is currently the head of SADC, and his response to the recent civil unrest in South Africa disappointed some. … The Mozambican government has been slow in responding to the crisis. After months of denial, it hired Russian and South African private military contractors as security. In March, an Amnesty International report accused one contractor and government forces of committing human rights abuses against civilians. The Guardian

SADC Leaders Condemn AU Decision to Grant Israel Observer Status
Southern African leaders objected to the African Union granting Israel observer status on Wednesday. Heads of state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe for the Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government. The 41st Ordinary Summit met to discuss bolstering economic cooperation in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as issues of regional insecurity. In the communique published, the regional bloc rallied together in its condemnation of the African Union’s decision. The summit “expressed concern and objected to the unilateral decision taken by the African Union Commission to grant the State of Israel Observer Status to the African Union.” South Africa had played a “central role” in lobbying SADC’s 16 member states to issue a collective statement, said Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. “It is significant when you have a regional body of the African Union speaking in one voice on such a matter. It carries weight,” said Monyela. AU member states have previously rejected Israel’s applications, but the latest decision had bypassed the collective debate, explained Monyela. This is why SADC was critical of what it called a unilateral decision by the African Union Commissioner. News24

Dim Light for Democracy in Tanzania as Opposition Leader Remains behind Bars
[Video] When Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office in April, she vowed a U-turn in politics from her predecessor, the late John Magufuli. But the arrest of opposition leader Freeman Mbowe in July has dimmed hopes that Hassan will her turn back on Magufuli’s iron-fisted style of rule. Charles Kombe reports from Dar es Salaam. VOA

Central African Republic President’s Rival Flees After Treason Charges
A former presidential candidate and opponent of Central African Republic President slipped out of the country despite a travel ban slapped on him by the authorities. Abdoul Karim Meckassoua was removed recently as a member of the national assembly after being accused of belonging to a rebel group keen on ousting President Faustin Archange Touadera. Meckassoua is thought to have fled the capital Bangui on Sunday night, crossing the Oubangi river into the Democratic Republic of Congo and later into Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo’s capital. He was accused of being a member of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), a rebel group Central African authorities say is supported by former President Francois Bozize. Meckassoua was a candidate in the 2016 election which was won by Touadera. He has also served as the head of the country’s national assembly and a minister. AfricaNews

US Special Forces in East DR Congo to Fight Militia: Sources
US special operations forces have arrived in the east of the DR Congo to help in the fight against a feared jihadist militia enjoying “sanctuary” in the region’s nature parks, US and Congolese sources said Wednesday. The office of President Felix Tshisekedi said Sunday that Kinshasa had authorised the deployment in support of the Congolese army against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels. The size of the contingent was unknown but around a dozen soldiers could be seen in official photos of a meeting Sunday between Tshisekedi and a delegation led by US Ambassador to Kinshasa Mike Hammer. Congolese and US sources confirmed to an AFP correspondent in the region the presence of some of the soldiers at a base in the Virunga natural park known for its endangered mountain gorillas. The presidency said at the weekend that the contingent would also support rangers in Garamba, which like Virunga has “become a sanctuary for terrorist forces.” AFP

Parched Egypt Seeks Partners for $2.5bn Desalination Plan
Egypt is seeking partners to invest in a $2.5 billion initiative to build more than a dozen renewable energy-powered desalination plants by 2025, as the country tries to tackle looming water scarcity. Officials plan 17 new plants that would run on solar and other green sources, with each built, owned and operated by Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund in partnership with a group of local and foreign investors, according to the fund’s chief executive officer, Ayman Soliman. The Arab world’s most populous nation relies on the Nile River for almost all its fresh water and is confronting a yawning supply deficit that officials fear will be worsened by a giant hydropower dam Ethiopia is filling on the main tributary. “Egypt is keen to build a sustainable technology base to control its destiny when it comes to water security,” Soliman said in an interview. The wealth fund targets taking a minority stake in all the plants alongside the winning bidders, he said. Population growth and climate change have also made Egypt vulnerable to water scarcity. The world needs to spend $6.7 trillion on water infrastructure by 2030, according to the United Nations, which says that around 1.2 billion people already live in areas of physical shortages. Bloomberg

Africa’s First Youth Games Bring Hopes for Continent’s First Olympics
For decades, African athletes have traveled all over the world to take part in the Olympic Games. At the recent Tokyo Games, they took home gold, silver and bronze medals. And yet Africa has never hosted the Games, and some people are asking what it would take for the Olympics to be held on African soil. In Kenya, thousands cheered on one of their favorite long-distance runners, Eliud Kipchoge, who won the gold medal in the men’s marathon. One Kipchoge fan had a special request for the government: Develop the country’s sports infrastructure.  “We are very happy, all of us from Rift Valley and Kenyans as a whole. … [But we] just [want] to implore our leaders to address the issue of stadiums. … The Kipchoge Keino Stadium is dilapidated. And today, Kipchoge has shown the world that we are more than capable,” said Mandela Kiplimo, a resident of Eldoret, about 40 kilometers from the Olympic champion’s hometown of Kapsisiywa. Having subpar sports facilities that don’t meet international norms is one of the biggest challenges for countries that want to host the Olympic Games. For many of them, it’s just too expensive, said Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist, who edited the book Rio 2016: Olympic Myths, Hard Realities. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones