Africa Media Review for August 20, 2021

U.S. Aid Chief Says Emergency Food in Ethiopia’s Tigray to Run out This Week
For the first time in nine months of war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, aid workers will this week run out of food to deliver to millions of people who are going hungry there, the head of the U.S. government’s humanitarian agency said. “USAID and its partners as well as other humanitarian organizations have depleted their stores of food items warehoused in Tigray,” Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said in a statement late on Thursday. War broke out in November between Ethiopian troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the region. The conflict has been marked by allegations of war crimes, killed thousands and sparked a humanitarian crisis in one of the world’s poorest regions. The U.N. warned last month that more than 100,000 children in Tigray could die of hunger. On Thursday, the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire and unrestricted aid access in Tigray. “People in Tigray are starving with up to 900,000 in famine conditions and more than five million in desperate need of humanitarian assistance,” Power said. Reuters

Uganda Suspends over 50 Civic Groups Charging Non-Compliance
Authorities in Uganda have suspended more than 50 civic groups for allegedly not complying with regulations, dealing a blow to hundreds of thousands of people who directly benefit from the organizations’ activities. The suspensions, which target agencies ranging from rights watchdogs to women’s groups, were announced Friday by the government’s Non-Governmental Organization Bureau. Prominent rights group Chapter Four Uganda and election observer group CCEDU are among 15 facing indefinite suspensions over allegedly failing to file annual returns and audited accounts. The suspensions take immediate effect and will be enforced, the NGO Bureau said in a statement. The government’s action will renew fears of an assault on civil society that grew before a charged presidential election earlier this year. Many of the affected groups have been in limbo for months, unable to carry out their regular activities after authorities suspended the operations of a leading donor known as the Democratic Governance Facility, or DGF. “Unfortunately, in our failing democracy, anything can happen,” said Dickens Kamugisha, whose group advocating good energy governance is among the suspended. “This is all part of the political harassment of citizens and the NGOs.” AP

Amid Fears of Ebola, West Africa Records Its Highest Number of COVID-19 Deaths Yet, Says WHO
West Africa is experiencing its highest number of Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Africa said on Thursday. It’s a worrying trend in a region also battling the Ebola and Marburg viruses. Over the last month, deaths from Covid-19 across West Africa have nearly tripled, from 348 to 1 018 at the end of last week. While the fatality rate is lower than the continental average – 1.4% compared to 2.5% – officials fear that health systems in the region are already under severe strain. This relatively low fatality rate is still higher than previous waves – a sign that hospitals are struggling with a heavy caseload. A WHO assessment of the overall functionality of health systems in the region showed that West Africa’s healthcare systems were 21% lower than southern Africa’s – the region with the highest number of infections in Africa. Overall, new infections in Africa have begun to slow, decreasing to 244 000 in the last week after a worrying surge. Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Nigeria are all experiencing a surge in new infections. Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea are managing an outbreak of the Ebola virus, while Guinea became the first west African country to record a case of Marburg virus – a highly infectious haemorrhagic disease in the same family as Ebola. News24

COVID Has Heightened Conflict, Deepened Depression, Say Central African Leaders
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened problems of conflict, terrorism, and scarce resources in Central Africa to plunge millions of people deeper into poverty. That’s according to members of the regional bloc CEMAC. CEMAC heads of state Wednesday called for solidarity to improve living conditions in the six-nation economic bloc. During a virtual heads of state summit Tuesday, the central African leaders said the advent of COVID-19 forced the closure of many businesses and caused millions of workers to lose their jobs. … Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, issued a statement Tuesday after her virtual participation in the CEMAC summit from Washington. She said in 2020, COVID-19, combined with an ensuing decline in oil prices and security issues, had led to a deep recession and imposed a heavy toll on CEMAC member states. She said the countries’ fiscal positions were weakened and external reserves depleted. Georgieva said CEMAC must accelerate the vaccination campaign to ensure a sustainable economic recovery. VOA

Cameroon Violence Kills 32 as Thousands Flee
Clashes between fishermen and herders in Cameroon have killed 32 people and forced thousands to flee to neighboring Chad for safety, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said Thursday. What has been described as the worst intercommunal violence in the country in contemporary times started between Choa Arab herders and Mousgoum fishermen and farmers over agricultural, fisheries and pastoral resources in the Logone Birni district of the Far North region on August 10. “At least 32 people were killed and 74 injured and 19 villages burned down,” UNHCR said in a statement. The UN body said Chadian authorities have reported the arrival of 11,000 people fleeing violence to seek refuge in Chad while an additional 7,300 were displaced within the country. It said about 85 percent of those who have fled to neighboring Chad are women and children, and most of the men are elderly. Nation

Army Says Attack on Malian Military Convoy Kills at Least 15
Gunmen ambushed a Malian army convoy in central Mali on Thursday, killing at least 15 soldiers, the army said, just days after another attack in the country’s north left several dozen civilians dead. The soldiers had been heading from the town of Douentza to Boni when it came under attack by a vehicle that exploded as it passed, the Malian military announced. Intense gunfire soon followed, the statement said. The attack has not been claimed, but bears the mark of armed groups linked to al- Qaeda that have been active in the region for years. Islamic extremists grabbed control of major towns across northern Mali in 2012. A French-led military operation the following year dispersed the militants, but they have mounted frequent attacks against Malian soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers in the years since. Islamic extremists have also made inroads into central Mali, destabilizing the region. AP

Forty People Feared Dead as Woman Rescued from Dinghy off Canary Islands
About 40 migrants are feared dead after rescuers recovered a lone woman clinging to an overturned dinghy that had been carrying dozens of people trying to reach the Canary Islands. A rescue helicopter carrying the survivor – a 30-year-old woman who appeared exhausted and shaken – landed at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria airport on Tuesday, after a cargo ship found her 135 miles off the coast. Officials said the woman, who was found lying next to two bodies, was suffering severe dehydration and was “in a bad state.” She told her rescuers she had begun the crossing from the African continent with “about 40 people.” The coastguard had been alerted by another boat that had spotted the woman about 135 miles from the Spanish archipelago off the north-west coast of Africa. The two bodies found next to her on the overturned boat were also recovered and brought ashore, a spokesperson said. Weather conditions were reported to be bad at the time. Last year, more than 23,000 migrants reached the Canary Islands, eight times more than the previous year, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry. In the first seven months of 2021, 7,531 migrants have arrived in the Canaries, more than twice as many as in the same period in 2020. The Guardian

Nigeria’s Secret Programme to Lure Top Boko Haram Defectors
[Nigeria’s sulhu – Arabic for peacemaking – program to convince jihadists to defect is] so controversial that no government representative would go on record to discuss it, and given Abuja’s increasing hostility to independent reporting on security matters, few Nigeria-based civil society figures wanted to be named either. Sulhu is applauded by its supporters as smart warfare – a means to remove senior jihadists from the battlefield more effectively than the stuttering orthodox military campaign. “We have a proof of concept; it’s working,” said an Abuja-based analyst, who wouldn’t agree to be identified beyond that description. “It’s depleting the enemy’s fighting force.” But the men on the sulhu programme are almost certain to have been involved in atrocities. They have not been granted a formal amnesty, but neither have they been held to account for any crimes committed in a brutal conflict that is now in its twelfth year. It’s a war that has killed 35,000 people – 350,000 if you include the victims of the accelerating humanitarian crisis – and upended the lives of millions more, according to the UN. … Under sulhu, defectors are enrolled in a six-month “deradicalisation” course in the military’s demobilisation and reintegration centre in Mallam Sidi, in northeastern Gombe State. … Sulhu is run by DSS and the military, but is separate from the army’s much larger disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration initiative, known as Operation Safe Corridor (OSC) and also based in Mallam Sidi. The New Humanitarian

Sudan PM Visits Juba amid Political Crisis
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok arrived in Juba on Thursday for two days of talks aimed at bolstering peace efforts in South Sudan amid a political crisis within the SPLM/A-IO group led by South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar where his former chief of staff, General Simon Gatwech, recently announced he had ousted Machar as chairman of the party and commander-in-chief of its forces. Deadly fighting ensued from the split. Officials from Khartoum and Juba are expected to discuss bilateral ties between the two countries and the implementation of the Juba peace deal signed last year between Sudan’s transitional government and several armed groups. Sudanese Foreign Affairs Minister Mariam al-Mahdi, who accompanied Hamdok, told reporters at Juba International Airport that the Sudan leadership is concerned about the slow implementation of the South Sudan peace deal. … Hamdok is scheduled to meet with South Sudan President Salva Kiir, Machar and other political players as well as diplomats from the United States, Britain and Norway. Hamdok’s visit comes after one by Workneh Gebeyehu, the head of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional group trying to advance the peace process. VOA

UN Experts Demand Eritrea Release Journalist Jailed for 20 Years
United Nations rights experts have demanded that Asmara immediately release a Swedish-Eritrean journalist held without charge and largely incommunicado for two decades, voicing fear he may no longer be alive. Dawit Isaak was among a group of some two dozen senior cabinet ministers, members of parliament and independent journalists who were seized in what was described as a draconian purge in September 2001. The government of Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki says those arrested were a threat to national security. “To this day, Dawit Isaak has never been charged with a crime, spent a day in court or spoken to his lawyer,” Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a statement on Wednesday. “The level to which the Eritrean government is ignoring Mr Isaak’s basic, fundamental human rights is appalling. He must be released at once.” Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says he and his colleagues detained at the same time are now the longest-held journalists in the world. Al Jazeera

French Wine Giant Castel Accused of Funding Rebels in CAR
The French wine giant Castel says it will investigate claims that one of its subsidiaries paid rebels in the Central African Republic to protect its sugar operations in the country. Made by UN corruption watchdog The Sentry, the claims concern an alleged “security arrangement” between Castel subsidiary Sucaf RCA and an armed group called the Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC). The Sentry, an NGO that specialices in tracking down illicit financing in conflict zones, said the agreement to provide security for a sugar refinery and cane fields dated from 2014 until March this year. “Sucaf RCA set up a sophisticated and informal system for financing armed militaries through direct and indirect cash payments as well as in-kind assistance in the form vehicle maintenance and fuel supply,” a report by The Sentry said. It added that the UPC also helped to protect the company’s sugar monopoly, seizing “smuggled sugar, particularly from Sudan” and “discreetly” repackaging it as Sucar RCA sugar, which was then sold to wholesalers. RFI with AFP

Judgement Day: Kenya’s Court to Deliver Verdict on Constitutional Change
Kenya’s Court of Appeal will deliver its verdict Friday on the president’s controversial three-year quest to change the constitution, a ruling that could shake up the political landscape less than a year before elections. President Uhuru Kenyatta argues that the initiative will help end repeated cycles of election violence in the East African country, a hot-button issue that has divided the political elite. The proposed reforms came about following a rapprochement between Kenyatta and his erstwhile opponent Raila Odinga and a famous handshake between the two men after post-election fighting in 2017 left dozens of people dead. The so-called Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) seeks notably to dilute the current winner-take-all electoral system blamed by Kenyatta for poll unrest, by expanding the executive and parliament. … If the BBI is again ruled illegal, the electoral process would follow its planned course. “That would be the least disruption,” Nic Cheeseman, a professor at the University of Birmingham in England, told AFP. On the flipside, he said, approval of the BBI “would be the more destabilizing option” because of questions about whether there would be time to introduce all the reforms by election day. AfricaNews with AFP

US Offers $5m Bounty for Guinea-Bissau Coup Leader
The United States announced Thursday it is offering a $5 million reward for the arrest of Guinea-Bissau’s former coup leader Antonio Indjai, wanted for his alleged role in a drug deal linked to Colombian Farc guerrillas. On April 13, 2012, General Antonio Indjai, then chief of staff in the politically unstable West African country, staged a coup, disrupting the electoral process two weeks before the presidential runoff. U.S. prosecutors indicted him in 2013, accusing him of agreeing to stockpile tons of cocaine for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), the sale of which financed the purchase of weapons for the guerrillas and bribes to officials in Guinea-Bissau. After the coup led by Antonio Indjai, a transitional authority was put in place until the May 2014 election of José Mario Vaz as president. The $5 million will reward information leading to his arrest or conviction. AfricaNews with AFP

With Engineers and Roadway Repair Crews, Thai Blue Helmets Help Keep South Sudan Moving
Blue helmets from Thailand working with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are not only doing their bit to repair and rehabilitate critical infrastructure but are also helping support the mission’s COVID-19 response and training local communities about growing their own food. Since 2018, the Royal Thai Armed Forces has deployed troops serving as the Horizontal Military Engineering Company (HMEC) to support UNMISS. Nearly 270 Thai peacekeepers are working mainly in two South Sudanese cities, the, capital, Juba, and Rumbek the latter being about 400 km to the north where they help to maintain supply routes, including engineering tasks, with the UNMISS Engineering Section. For instance, in 2019, Thai engineers serving with UNMISS repaired a section along the frequently travelled Juba-Yei road. Most of the main supply routes in South Sudan are in constant need of repair, and convoys to different parts of the country often suffer delays or damage – making transportation, access and delivery of humanitarian assistance a herculean task. UN News

#Worldhumanitarianday – Save the Children Calls for Actions to Battle Climate Change in Nigeria
As the world is celebrating World Humanitarian Day on Thursday, Aug. 19, Save the Children has called for actions by the government and other stakeholders in raising awareness on what the climate crisis means to people, and its impact on Nigeria, especially in the Northeast and possible activity that can be done to reduce the impact on people already facing humanitarian crises. Shannon Ward, acting Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria said climate change increases risks of conflict by amplifying poverty and economic shocks while inflicting havoc across the world at a level that people and humanitarian organisations on the frontline cannot manage. “It is important to remember that the combination of climate change and conflict pushes people out of their homes, disrupts food production and supplies, amplifies diseases and malnutrition, and weakens health-care services. Children have contributed the least to the climate crisis, yet they are paying the highest price,” Ward said in a statement issued to commemorate World Humanitarian Day. According to her, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimates that following climate-related disasters, the number of people in humanitarian need could double to over 200 million by 2050, and humanitarian funding needs could increase to US$20 billion annually by 2030. HumAngle



Photo: Adam Jones