Africa Media Review for August 25, 2021

Zambia’s New President Inspires African Opposition Leaders
Zambia’s veteran opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been sworn in as president in front of a packed stadium in the capital, Lusaka. His election has raised the hopes of his counterparts in other African states that they too can overcome state repression and one day rise to power. During a long political career that saw him fail in five previous bids to become president, Mr Hichilema was brutalised, tear-gassed and even detained for a traffic offence in 2017 that was deemed treasonous after his convoy failed to give way to the motorcade of outgoing President Edgar Lungu. But in an extraordinary reversal of his fortunes, the man once declared an enemy of the state was sworn in as Zambia’s seventh president after defeating Mr Lungu in their latest election duel on 12 August. “It’s massively inspirational,” said Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu who survived an assassination attempt in 2017 after being shot 16 times by people he believes were state agents. “Zambians have shown us it can be done, no matter what they put us through, no matter the odds,” he added. Mr Lissu lost last year’s election to the late President John Magufuli, which he alleges was rigged. He later fled the country as security officers planned to arrest him. BBC

Zambia Elections: Hakainde Hichilema’s Landslide Victory Was a Herculean Task
Hakainde Hichilema’s surprise landslide victory in last week’s Zambia elections has sent a powerful message across the continent that even well-entrenched incumbents can be unseated, against heavy odds – but that it takes an almost superhuman effort to do so. Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) won at his fifth attempt at the presidency, turning out young people especially in such large numbers that it became impossible for President Edgar Lungu, of the Patriotic Front (PF), to deny him victory. In the end the voter turnout was a record 70.9% – way above the 57.7% of the last vote in 2016. And Hichilema’s victory margin was more than one million. It was just too big to rig. “Obasanjo always says the challenger has to win big. So that rigging doesn’t make a difference,” said Brenthurst Foundation director Greg Mills. He was referring to former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has himself sparred with dictators. Or, put differently, “election rigging has a ceiling”, as Phillan Zamchiya, of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, (PLAAS), says. “This was not a perfectly free and fair election. It was heavily skewed in favour of Lungu and the Patriotic Front,” he said at a Sapes Trust webinar on the election this week. … But intense UPND voter education, a huge turnout of mostly young polling agents and a robust Parallel Voter Tabulation (PVT) system of independently collating the vote – including bypassing the internet blackout by way of VPN (virtual private network) – in the end overcame the long odds, Zamchiya said. Daily Maverick

Chad’s Former Dictator Hissene Habre Dies of COVID-19 at 79
Chad’s former dictator Hissene Habre, the first former head of state to be convicted of crimes against humanity by an African court after his government was accused of killing 40,000 people, has died in Senegal. He was 79. … The former dictator, first arrested in Senegal in 2013, had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2016 but ultimately served about five years in prison following his conviction. Human rights activists say Chad was a ruthless, one-party state under Habre’s rule from 1982 to 1990. A fearsome security service headed by members of Habre’s Gorane ethnic group was placed in every village, documenting even the slightest transgressions against the regime, they said. … As Senegal confronted a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, some victims’ advocates had urged the government to make sure Habre was vaccinated, ensuring he would serve a long sentence behind bars. Lawyer Jacqueline Moudeina, who represents victims’ families in Chad, vowed Tuesday to press ahead with those compensation claims despite Habre’s death. For Younous Mahadjir, who was held for four months at the end of Habre’s rule for distributing anti-regime pamphlets, the overwhelming impression of the period was fear. “At any moment they could arrest you,” said Mahadjir, who while in detention had water poured down his throat until he lost consciousness. “During Habre’s time, to be prudent, when you slept you wore your clothes, because you never knew when they might come for you.” AP

Officers Killed in Attack on Nigeria’s Elite Military Academy
Gunmen have attacked Nigeria’s elite military academy, killing two officers and kidnapping another in a brazen assault on a symbol of the armed forces. The raid on Tuesday on the Nigerian Defence Academy, the country’s main officer training school, is a major blow for a military already struggling with an armed uprising and heavily armed criminal gangs. “The security architecture of the Nigerian Defence Academy was compromised early this morning by unknown gunmen,” said Major Bashir Muhammad Jajira, spokesman for the academy in the northwestern state of Kaduna. “We lost two personnel and one was abducted.” Various army units and security agencies were pursuing the attackers and trying to rescue the kidnap victim, Jajira said. The high-security base, located just outside the state capital Kaduna, trains Nigerian officers and also cadets from other African militaries. No group claimed responsibility, but Nigeria is facing a threat from rebels and large criminal gangs that raid villages, steal cattle and carry out mass kidnappings for ransom. Attacks and kidnappings have surged in recent months, especially in north-central and northwest Nigeria, partly driven by economic hardship linked to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and by the impunity enjoyed by most perpetrators. Kaduna state, located north of the federal capital Abuja, has been the scene of mass abductions at schools and other acts of violence against communities, along with other states such as Niger, Zamfara and Katsina. Al Jazeera

Tunisian Party Concerned at President’s Extension of Emergency Powers
The biggest party in Tunisia’s parliament voiced concern on Tuesday at what it called the ambiguity surrounding the country’s future after the president indefinitely extended emergency measures announced a month ago. The moderate Islamist Ennahda initially called President Kais Saied’s seizure of governing powers and freezing of parliament a coup, although its recent statements have only described his moves as a constitutional violation. A month after Saied’s intervention, he has not appointed a new prime minister or government or announced what he plans to do next, amid widespread speculation that he plans to redraw the 2014 democratic constitution. Late on Monday, the presidency said Saied was indefinitely extending the measures without giving further details, but added that he would give a speech in the coming days. … The United States and France, as well as Tunisian political parties and the powerful labour union, have urged Saied to quickly appoint a government and sketch out plans for the future. Reuters

Algeria Breaks off Diplomatic Ties with Neighboring Morocco
Algeria formally broke off diplomatic relations with neighboring Morocco on Tuesday, with the foreign minister citing a series of alleged hostile acts. The move culminates a period of growing tension between the North African countries which are mired in a decades-long feud, with their borders closed to each other. There was no immediate reaction from Morocco. … The announcement comes nearly a week after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune told a meeting of Algeria’s High Security Council that “incessant hostile acts perpetrated by Morocco have meant the need for a revision in relations between the two countries and the intensification of security checks” at the western borders with Morocco, the official APS news agency reported. … Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abdul Gheit called on both to avoid further escalation. He expressed hope the two countries can maintain a “minimal level of ties” to ensure stability for themselves and within the region. The Algerian foreign minister cited an accumulation of grievances against Morocco leading to Tuesday’s decision. He also denounced “massive and systematic acts of espionage” by Morocco, a reference to allegations that the kingdom’s security services used Israeli-made Pegasus spyware against its officials and citizenry, APS said. AP

Somali Forces Recapture Town After Brief al-Shabaab Seizure
Somali security forces recaptured the town of Amaara in the central Galmudug region after al-Shabab militants briefly took over early Tuesday following a dawn attack. The attack on Amaara and a subsequent roadside explosion in the same vicinity killed at least six people, including four Somali soldiers. Witnesses and officials told VOA that al-Shabab militants began their attack with a suicide vehicle-borne explosion detonated near an army base. Galmudug Information Minister Ahmed Shire Falagle confirmed the attack to VOA but disputed allegations that the town fell to al-Shabab. Falagle said the militants loaded a truck with sheep and goats to disguise the explosive-laden vehicle. He said the truck exploded near a military camp, killing two civilians and three soldiers. A fourth soldier died, and six others were injured after their vehicle struck a landmine in the same vicinity, officials said. … The U.S. military in Africa, known as AFRICOM, later confirmed conducting a “collective self-defense” strike against al-Shabab fighters. AFRICOM said the militants engaged in active combat with Somali forces. VOA

US, EU Warn of Influx of Eritrean Troops in Ethiopia’s Tigray
The United States and European Union are raising alarm over the recent deployment of troops from Eritrea to Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where nine months of war have killed thousands of people and sparked a worsening humanitarian crisis. Forces from Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigray recaptured much of the territory in June, in a major setback for Ethiopia’s government. But the new Eritrean deployments, which come months after Ethiopia said foreign troops were pulling out, raise the prospect of an escalation of fighting. “The United States is concerned that large numbers of (Eritrean Defence Forces) have re-entered Ethiopia, after withdrawing in June,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday. Those remarks came as the Treasury Department announced sanctions against a leading Eritrean official it accused of human rights abuses during the war in Tigray. EU diplomats, meanwhile, wrote in an internal memorandum on August 20 that Eritrea was sending reinforcements across the border into Tigray. … It also said that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Eritrea’s capital Asmara on August 17, a visit that was not announced by his office, while en route to an official meeting in Turkey. Reuters

Sudan, Libya Agree to Enforce Regional Border Monitoring Deal
Sudan and Libya agreed on Tuesday to activate a regional security agreement to curb human trafficking and illegal immigration. Musa al-Koni Vice-President of the Libyan Presidential Council accompanied by the Libyan Minister of Immigration arrived in Khartoum on a two-day visit. The visiting Libyan delegation held a meeting with the Vice-Chairman of the Transitional Sovereign Council to discuss ways to activate joint border security agreements that include Chad and Niger. Undersecretary of the Libyan Foreign Ministry, Mohamed Khalil Issa stated that the meeting discussed the redeployment of the Quartet forces tasked with monitoring the borders, stressing that the neighbouring countries should contribute with his government to solving the Libyan issue. … Issa added that technical meetings will be held between the security authorities in the four countries to discuss the implementation process and the formation of a joint command. Also, he announced that the Libyan delegation will head to Ndjamena to discuss the issue with Chadian officials. On June 2, 2018, Sudan, Libya, Chad and Niger signed an agreement providing to deploy joint force to monitor borders and combat human trafficking but it was implemented. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan Deploys Team to Smoke out Criminals on Juba Highway
South Sudanese authorities say they have sent a joint security team to map out the hideouts of bandits terrorising Kenyan and Ugandan drivers on its main highway from Uganda. It comes a day after Kenyan truckers suspended cargo transport services to South Sudan after two of their drivers were killed and trucks torched by unknown criminals on Saturday on the Juba-Nimule highway. South Sudan’s National Police Service spokesman Gen Daniel Justine said a joint security team, composed of military intelligence and police officers, had been sent out on Monday to track down the bandits. After meeting with Kenyan diplomats in Juba, the deputy foreign affairs and international cooperation minister, Deng Dau Deng, promised safety for foreign drivers. “I, on behalf of the South Sudan government, met the Kenya ambassador to convey my condolences to the families that lost their loved ones during the weekend attack. We condemned the barbaric attack and call for an end to such,” Deng said. Kenya’s ambassador to Juba, Samuel Nandwa, called on Kenyans in South Sudan to stay calm as both authorities seek a permanent solution. The EastAfrican

All-Female Vegan Rangers Leading Anti-Poaching in Zimbabwe
The impact of the pandemic has increased wildlife poaching around Zimbabwe’s national parks, as people who lost their jobs hunt the animals for food. To help protect the animals, anti-poaching organizations have been formed, including a squad of vegan, women rangers. Those are recruits of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation on a drill near Mana Pools National Park, about 300 kilometers north of Harare. Nyaradzo Auxillia Hoto has been part of this group, known as Akashinga, the Brave Ones, since it started in 2017 to fight poaching here. The 29-year-old Hoto says she does not fear poachers or wildlife. … The women are well-armed, and if they encounter poachers, they detain them, and turn them over to police for prosecution. Damien Mander, an Australian national and an Iraq war veteran, formed the Akashinga project. He says anti-poaching patrols will help preserve Africa’s wildlife, which has been under steady assault from poachers for decades. “It was a trial in the beginning on one reserve in northern Zimbabwe, we started with 16 women protecting 90,000 acres. We now got 240 staff as part of this program. We now have eight reserves that we patrol. We are on target to have 1,000 staff by 2026,” he said. VOA

Ivory Coast’s First Ebola Patient in More than 25 Years Declared ‘Cured’
A young Guinean woman who tested positive for the Ebola virus in Ivory Coast after arriving there two weeks ago has recovered from the disease, the Ivorian health ministry said Tuesday. “We performed on the patient two biological tests which were negative in an interval of 48 hours. She is therefore declared cured,” Serge Eholie, ministry spokesman and head of the country’s infectious diseases department told AFP. “We are lifting her isolation today (Tuesday). She is no longer a risk of contamination. She is still very tired, we are keeping her in hospital,” the professor added. Her diagnosis was the first confirmed case of Ebola in Ivory Coast since 1994. The 18-year-old had travelled to Abidjan by bus from Labe in northern Guinea, a journey of about 1,500 kilometres (950 miles) that traverses a densely-forested region where Ebola epidemics broke out earlier this year and 2013-16. The World Health Organization has identified 49 people who have been in contact with the woman, and Ivory Coast started a vaccination campaign earlier this month to target those who were in immediate contact with the patient and security forces along the border with Guinea. AFP

Mozambique: Factory Workers Stuck in Yearlong Lockdown
A Chinese company has effectively imprisoned workers in a Mozambique cement factory for over a year, a VICE World News investigation found. Nádia has barely left the Dugongo Cimentos cement plant in southern Mozambique in more than a year. At the plant, she has been “working like a slave,” she said. Nádia, whose name has been changed to protect her from retribution, hasn’t seen her family in a very long time. Since the beginning of 2020, she has seen her children mainly through the plant’s gates. An investigation by VICE World News found that along with some 300 other workers, Nádia has been virtually held captive at the plant since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. While rushing to get the plant ready to operate, the workers inside the Dugongo Cimentos compound said they were told by their bosses that they could leave if they wanted to, but that they would also lose their jobs, and with them the ability to keep feeding their families in a country where poverty and unemployment are the norm. Instead, most have stayed and worked long hours in grueling conditions, since Dugongo put its workers on an unofficial “lockdown” in March of last year. VICE



Photo: Adam Jones