Africa Media Review for August 2, 2021

Tunisia in Crisis: An Explainer
Tunisia is facing a constitutional crisis rooted in challenges to the separation of powers and the reach of executive authority. The outcome has implications not only for Tunisia but prospects for democracy across North Africa. Tunisian President Kais Saied abruptly suspended Parliament on July 25, removed cabinet ministers including the minister of defense, assumed executive power over the judiciary, and deployed the military to enforce his rule. The military subsequently prevented elected members of parliament from meeting. Parliament, for its part, has characterized Saied’s actions as unconstitutional. Democracy advocates, both domestic and international, have called Saied’s actions a coup. To gain more perspective on Tunisia’s rapidly unfolding and poorly understood crisis, the Africa Center has asked its North Africa expert, Dr. Anouar Boukhars, to share his insights. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

West African Health Officials Race to Vaccinate amid Spikes
A resurgence of coronavirus cases in West Africa is hitting the region hard, inundating cemeteries where funeral numbers are rising and hospitals where beds are becoming scarce. Those visible shifts are also pushing a reluctant population to seek out the vaccines in larger numbers at a time when shipments of doses are arriving from multiple sources after nearly grinding to a halt in recent months. Thousands of new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the region in the past few weeks amid low vaccination rates and the spread of the delta variant, with some countries seeing their highest numbers since the pandemic began. Residents who were previously wary of getting shots as conspiracy theories spread online are now lining up by the thousands from Liberia to Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal. “At the beginning, there were people who gave false information, but when people noticed an increase of contaminations and deaths, people understood that only vaccination can save them,” said Bamba Fall, mayor of the Medina municipality in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. … Some 82 million doses have arrived on the continent to date, though that is just 10% of the number needed to vaccinate 30% of its population by the end of 2021, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. AP

Kenya Bans In-Person Meetings, Public Gatherings as COVID Surges
Kenya said it is extending a nighttime curfew and banning public gatherings and in-person meetings to slow the spread of the coronavirus, warning that hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. The East African country has in recent days witnessed a jump in cases from the Delta variant, with a positivity rate of 14 percent as of Friday compared with about seven percent last month. “All public gatherings and in-person meetings of whatever nature are suspended countrywide. In this regard, all government, including intergovernmental meetings and conferences, should henceforth be converted to either virtual or postponed in the coming 30 days,” Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said in a televised address on Friday. He said the positivity rate was at risk of rising further unless serious measures were taken. “We continue to implore all Kenyans, including those who have received their COVID-19 vaccines, not to let their guard down,” Kagwe said after a meeting of the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus. “We are all responsible (for) bringing the cases down,” he said. Al Jazeera

Security Forces in Tunisia Arrest Two MPs from Party Opposed to President’s Consolidation of Power
Tunisian security forces have arrested two MPs from an Islamist party opposed to a power grab by President Kais Saied, their party said Sunday. Maher Zid and Mohamed Affes of Al-Karama have been placed in provisional detention in connection with a military investigation, party head Seifeddine Makhlouf wrote on Facebook. Al-Karama is allied to the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, the main opponent of the president. Their arrest late Saturday came a day after the detention of an independent MP, Yassine Ayari. Ayari was arrested after branding Saied’s decision last Sunday to suspend parliament and sack the prime minister and other top officials a “military coup.” Tunisia’s military court said he was arrested pursuant to a two-month prison sentence passed in late 2018 for criticising the army. Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have expressed concern over his arrest. … The arrests came as the United States called on Tunisia to return swiftly to its “democratic path.” A week after his shock move, Saied has yet to name a new prime minister. AFP

Cellular Signals: Dismay over Possibility of Internet Blackout during Zambia’s August General Election
Zambia’s main opposition party is disappointed that the country’s two biggest cellular companies – MTN and Airtel – cannot guarantee that they will not shut down internet access over the 12 August general election. Opposition parties and civil society widely expect President Edgar Lungu’s government to black out the internet and social media to prevent independent reporting, and monitoring of the results. Opposition parties say a blackout could frustrate their efforts to send final campaign messages, to inform their supporters of where and how to vote, and to report incidents of violence, intimidation and electoral irregularities on social media. Governments also often block cellphone signals to stop opposition supporters from rallying in protest if they suspect the results have been rigged. … MTN said if the Zambian government ordered it to shut down its services during the elections, the company would have to consider the order in light of its digital human rights policy. But MTN did not say that it would not shut down its services or censor them. And the company confirmed that it had shut down in four other African countries recently during unrest. Daily Maverick

Zambian President Deploys Army to Quell Violence Before Vote
Zambian President Edgar Lungu deployed the army and other security forces to join the police in maintaining law and order after the killing of two supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front. … Security forces deployed in parts of Lusaka and will “fan out” as the need arises, Lungu said in comments broadcast on state television Sunday evening … In June, the nation’s electoral commission barred the ruling party and the UPND from campaigning in Lusaka and three other districts because of political violence ahead of elections on Aug. 12. The ban was lifted last month. … Last week, Police Inspector-General Kakoma Kanganja ordered his officers to use force to ensure citizens follow pandemic restrictions. Police in the eastern town of Chipata prevented UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema from leaving the airport for about two hours, and fired teargas on his supporters gathered outside. Bloomberg

Burkina Faso Sees More Child Soldiers as Jihadi Attacks Rise
Awoken by gunshots in the middle of the night, Fatima Amadou was shocked by what she saw among the attackers: children. Guns slung over their small frames, the children chanted “Allahu akbar,” as they surrounded her home in Solhan town in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region. Some were so young they couldn’t even pronounce the words, Arabic for “God is great,” said the 43-year-old mother. “When I saw the kids, what came to my mind was that (the adults) trained these kids to be assassins, and they came to kill my children,” Amadou told The Associated Press by phone from Sebba town, where she now lives. She and her family are among the lucky ones who survived the June attack, in which about 160 people were killed — the deadliest such assault since the once-peaceful West African nation was overrun by fighters linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State about five years ago. As that violence increases, so too does the recruitment of child soldiers. The number of children recruited by armed groups in Burkina Faso rose at least five-fold so far this year, up from four documented cases in all of last year, according to information seen by the AP in an unpublished report by international aid and conflict experts. AP

More than a Dozen Soldiers Killed, Several Missing in Niger Attack
Fifteen soldiers have been killed and six more are missing after a “terrorist” attack in southwest Niger, near the border with Burkina Faso, the defence ministry announced Sunday. The soldiers were first ambushed and later hit by an improvised explosive device as they tried to evacuate their wounded in Saturday attack around 11:00 am (1000 GMT), the ministry said. The toll of the attack in the Torodi region is “15 soldiers killed, seven wounded and six missing,” the statement added. Backed by military aircraft, Niger’s ground forces launched a “wide search of the area” in order to “apprehend the terrorists,” the statement said. Torodi is in the southwest of the Tillaberi region which lies along the borders of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. … Some 33 villagers were killed in two separate attacks within the last week further north, towards the border with Mali. A contingent of 1,200 Chadian soldiers is deployed in the three-borders region as part of a multinational force put together by the G5 Sahel group, which comprises Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. AFP

Mali’s Interim Government Is Mindful of Fixed Election Timeline – PM
Mali’s transitional government is conscious of its commitment to a fixed deadline for arranging elections to restore democracy after last year’s coup, Prime Minister Choguel Maiga said on Friday. Since a junta toppled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020, political factions in Mali and foreign partners have been watching to see if the military-led interim authorities will stick to a promise to hold elections within 18 months. Presenting the interim government’s action plan, Maiga outlined four key policy areas, which included delivering transparent and credible elections after the creation of a new electoral body. “In respect of the fixed timeline for the transition and our international commitments, the single election management body will follow a simple implementation process,” he said without confirming any election dates. … The path to legislative and presidential elections in February 2022 has already been complicated by a second coup in May, when a leader in the first coup – Colonel Assimi Goita – ousted transitional leader Bah Ndaw to become interim president. … There are concerns key reforms and electoral processes may not be implemented in time, which could require an extension of the transitional authorities’ powers. Reuters

More than 100,000 Children in Ethiopia’s Tigray Could Die of Hunger- UNICEF
The United Nations children’s agency said on Friday that more than 100,000 children in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray could suffer life-threatening malnutrition in the next 12 months, a 10-fold increase to normal numbers. UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado said that one-in-two pregnant and breastfeeding women screened in Tigray were acutely malnourished. “Our worst fears about the health and well-being of children… are being confirmed,” she told a briefing in Geneva. Spokespeople for the prime minister and a government task force on Tigray – where fighting between rebellious regional and federal forces have continued since November – did not immediately respond to requests for comment on UNICEF’s statement. … The U.N. says that around 400,000 people are living in famine conditions in Tigray, and more than 90% of the population needs emergency food aid. Reuters

Somalia Raises Alarm over Food Shortage
Somalia has raised the alarm over a food shortage that has hit the country this season, affecting at least six million people. Officials from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management said on Saturday that a humanitarian crisis is looming in the country. After a joint meeting with line officials in the federal states, the ministry said it needs urgent aid delivered to more than a third of the country’s population that it said is at risk of starvation. Khadija Mohamed Diriye, the Humanitarian Affairs minister, on July 26 met regional officials who reported that an alarming number people – 5.9 million – were in need of food and water. “Intermittent droughts and floods in different parts of the country, political mayhem and effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with plagues by locusts, have worsened the humanitarian situation,” the officials said in a joint statement on Saturday. Somalia, which is currently holding much-delayed elections, has also been under attack by militant group al-Shabaab for more than a decade. The EastAfrican

Mercenaries ‘Impede’ Peace, Must Leave Libya to Allow Elections
The continued recruitment and presence of mercenaries in Libya is impeding “progress in the peace process” and an obstacle to upcoming elections, independent UN human rights experts said on Friday, calling for their “long overdue” departure. “Nine months after the ceasefire agreement calling for withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, mercenaries and private military and security contractors continue to operate in the country” said the chair of the UN’s Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Jelena Aparac. Some of the highly armed and well-trained private contractors operating in the country, hailing from Russia, Syria, Sudan and Chad, meet the criteria for mercenaries, according to the Working Group. In addition to the dangers they pose within Libya, the independent experts warned that they could also threaten the security and stability of other nations in the region. The UN experts stressed that these mercenary and mercenary-related actors must leave immediately, and that there must be an immediate end to the transfer of military weapons and supplies into Libya. “We appeal to the international community to take concrete steps to aid this process,” Ms. Aparac said. UN News

Six Civilians Killed, Several Wounded in CAR Rebel Attack
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) says six civilians were killed in a rebel attack in the country’s northeast. “This morning at dawn elements from the 3R (Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation) launched a large-scale attack against Central African army positions in the village of Mann,” the spokesperson for the UN’s 12,000-strong MINUSCA mission was quoted as saying by AFP news agency on Saturday. Several civilians were also wounded in the attack, the spokesperson said. The situation in Mann, some 550 kilometres (340 miles) from the capital, Bangui, is now “under control and patrols are under way,” Lieutenant Colonel Abdoulaziz Fall later said. The 3R is one of several armed groups to have emerged in the CAR, which has been mired in violence since a brutal civil conflict erupted in 2013. President Faustin-Archange Touadéra was re-elected in a December 2020 election that saw a turnout of fewer than one in three voters amid rising insecurity. The ballot was hampered by armed groups – including the 3R – that at the time controlled approximately two-thirds of the country, and rebels mounted an offensive in the run-up to polling day. Al Jazeera

More Arrests in Madagascar in Connection with Plot to Kill President
Madagascar on Sunday announced the arrest of five generals as well as high-ranking police officers in connection with a failed attempt to assassinate President Andry Rajoelina, the attorney general said. “To date, 21 people have been arrested and investigated,” Berthine Razafiarivony told a news briefing. Six people, including two French citizens, were initially arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attempt. Among the latest arrests, “12 are active military and police personnel, including five generals, two captains and five non-commissioned officers,” she said. Four of those arrested are retired national and foreign police and military personnel, and five are civilians, she said. Authorities seized 209,300 euros ($250,000), two cars and a shotgun, according to Razafiarivony. Reports of the assassination plot came after several months of turbulence in the island nation, with threats directed at journalists reporting on the country’s coronavirus pandemic and a burgeoning famine in the south of the country. AFP

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Arrives in Rwanda for Maiden Visit
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan arrived in Kigali Monday for her two-day State visit to Rwanda, during which she is expected to hold private talks with President Paul Kagame. She was received at Kigali International Airport by Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta. The Heads of State are expected to sign bilateral agreements and address a joint press briefing later on Monday. … One of the most crucial topics of interest between the two countries now is the instability in Mozambique, where Rwanda has deployed 1,000 soldiers and policemen to fight insurgents. Tanzania also has a Memorandum of Understanding with Mozambique, signed in November 2020, to jointly battle the militants in Cabo Delgado Province in the country’s north. Rwanda’s deployment of troops to Mozambique was not entirely supported by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), with reports indicating that the bloc expressed concern over a non-member deploying soldiers to the region without its approval. The EastAfrican

He Is Known as Nigeria’s ‘Super Cop.’ The FBI Says He Supported a Cybercrime Ring.
He is famous in Nigeria for catching notorious criminals — killers, kidnappers, bank robbers and Boko Haram extremists. Years of high-profile arrests won him acclaim and an enduring nickname: “super cop.” Now Abba Alhaji Kyari, deputy commissioner for the Nigeria Police Force, stands accused of abusing his power to support a global fraud ring. Kyari, 46, is wanted in the United States on charges related to wire fraud and money laundering, according to court documents unsealed this week in California. One of Nigeria’s most infamous scammers — Ramon Abbas, who goes by the moniker “Hushpuppi” — told investigators that Kyari accepted a bribe last year to arrest a man who betrayed his cybercrime syndicate. “He is in my Cell now,” Kyari texted Abbas, according to the indictment. “I want him to go through serious beating of his life,” Abbas allegedly wrote back, with the police official responding: “Hahahaha.” Abbas in April pleaded guilty to charges linked to fraud in a U.S. court in California, according to court records unsealed Monday. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Kyari has denied all wrongdoing. The Nigeria Police Force on Thursday said it had launched a probe of the FBI’s allegations but did not say whether Kyari had been suspended. … Activists say a culture of corruption has flourished in Nigerian law enforcement, with officers extorting people over the years, often violently and without consequence. The Washington Post

Out of Control and Rising: Why Bitcoin Has Nigeria’s Government in a Panic
According to bitcoin trading platform Paxful, Nigeria is now second only to the US for bitcoin trading. The dollar volume of crypto received by users in Nigeria in May was $2.4bn, up from $684m last December, according to blockchain research firm Chainalysis. And the true scale of crypto flows through Africa’s largest economy is likely to be much larger, with many trades untraceable by analysts. An array of factors, from political repression to currency controls and rampant inflation, have fuelled the stunning rise of cryptocurrencies in Nigeria. In February, the government took fright and banned cryptocurrency transactions through licensed banks. In late July, it announced a pilot scheme for a new government-controlled digital currency – hoping to reduce incentives for those wanting to use unregulated crypto. … Nigeria’s experience holds lessons for governments around the world, many of which are now thinking hard about how to regulate digital currencies. Britain’s chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is looking at creating a central-bank-controlled version, already being called Britcoin. EU regulators have set out plans to make digital currencies more traceable, in order to combat money laundering. In rural China, rows of computers used to create bitcoin in a computational process known as “mining” are being switched off after a clampdown by the authorities.  The Guardian

Return of the Pack: African Wild Dogs’ Epic Journey to a New Home in Malawi
Under cover of night, a pack of African wild dogs swarms around an impala carcass. Awake and hungry after a 27-hour transcontinental journey, this animated scene in Liwonde national park is a sign of “mission accomplished”: African wild dogs are back in Malawi. “The feeling is absolutely surreal and so emotional,” says Cole du Plessis, coordinator of the Wild Dog Range Expansion Project, who this week oversaw the successful translocation of the 14 African wild dogs from South Africa and Mozambique to Malawi’s Liwonde national park and Majete wildlife reserve. … As well as helping repopulate both parks, establishing a viable population is part of an international effort to conserve the African wild dog – Lycaon pictus, meaning painted wolf – in the wild. Only an estimated 6,600 individuals are believed to be left on the continent. “Wild dogs are the second most endangered carnivore in Africa [after the Ethiopian wolf] and the most endangered in South Africa,” says Du Plessis. … “Malawi is one of Africa’s brightest conservation stories,” says Samuel Kamoto, African Parks’ Malawi representative. “We’ve translocated more than 4,000 animals of key species over the course of our 18-year partnership with the Malawian government, building secure wildlife sanctuaries with many socio-economic benefits for local people.” The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones