Africa Media Review for August 26, 2021

Shell-Shocked Survivors Describe Brutal Tigray Rebel Advance
After seizing the farming village in northern Ethiopia, the rebels roamed the streets searching for young, able-bodied men who had fought alongside government forces. Anyone with a militia ID was a suspect. So were men with marks on their shoulders left by rifle straps, even though it is common for farmers in Ethiopia’s Amhara region — militia fighters or not — to carry Kalashnikovs. Before the day was over, the rebels had fatally shot two men in their homes and marched a third to a nearby river where they fired rounds into his back, according to 49-year-old Adisse Wonde, who said he buried all three. … The alleged killings earlier this month in the village of Hara are just one example of gruesome abuses described by witnesses of Ethiopia’s widening war. Long confined to Tigray, the conflict has recently spread to two neighbouring regions, Afar and Amhara, with heavy weapons fire killing an untold number of civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands more. The rebels, known as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), have dismissed allegations they have committed atrocities as “groundless” pro-government propaganda. Yet newly displaced civilians in Amhara tell a different story. They blame TPLF fighters for killings, widespread looting and the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas. AFP

Ethiopia Announces Fresh Delays to Polls
Ethiopian authorities have postponed polls in around a fifth of the country’s constituencies, extending a months-long delay which prevented citizens from voting in a June election due to ethnic violence and logistical problems. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s party won a landslide in the June vote, despite a brutal war in the northern region of Tigray, which was among the areas where elections did not take place. A second batch of polling in one-fifth of the country’s 547 constituencies was scheduled for 6 September, but will now take place on 30 September, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) announced in a statement late on Monday. The decision followed a meeting with politicians, who told NEBE officials that “considering the current situation the country is in, it’s not appropriate to hold elections currently.” NEBE said voting will take place on 30 September in the Somali, Harari and Southern regions, alongside a separate referendum on proposals to create a new South West region. But no election date has been set for Tigray, where fighting between Abiy’s forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has killed thousands of people and pushed hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions. AFP

Tanzania Says 5 Dead in Gun Battle near French Embassy
Tanzania’s president on Wednesday said five people are dead, including three police officers, after a gun battle with an armed man near the French Embassy in Dar es Salaam. It was not immediately clear whether the shootout in the heavily guarded diplomatic area was a terror attack. Inspector general of police Simon Sirro told reporters the armed man was a foreigner and police believe he was from Somalia. Sirro also warned the attack could be linked to the jihadist insurgency in neighboring Mozambique, where a growing number of African nations are jointly pursuing the fighters. The confrontation occurred shortly after President Samia Suluhu Hassan addressed security officials in another part of the city, Tanzania’s commercial hub. The president later said three police officers, a member of the auxiliary police and the armed man were killed, and she ordered an investigation. The U.S. Embassy in a security alert warned citizens to avoid the area. The shootout occurred not far from the scene of the deadly bombing in 1998 at the U.S. Embassy. AP

Niger Army Repels Boko Haram Attack, Says 16 Soldiers Killed
Hundreds of Boko Haram militants attacked a military post in southeastern Niger overnight, killing 16 soldiers and wounding nine more, the defence ministry said on Wednesday. About 50 of the Islamist militants were killed in the resulting combat in the West African country’s Diffa region and significant quantities of weapons were recovered, the ministry said in a statement. The attack late targeted the town of Baroua, where thousands of residents had only just returned after taking refuge elsewhere following jihadist massacres in 2015. The Boko Haram insurgency broke out in northeastern Nigeria in 2009, but violence frequently spills over into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon in the Lake Chad Basin. In December, an attack blamed on Boko Haram killed 28 people and burned 800 homes in the Diffa region. More than 6,000 people had returned to Baroua in late June under a programme to encourage around 26,000 inhabitants in the region to leave safer villages or UN camps and go back to their homes. France24 with Reuters, AFP

Nigeria Signs Military Cooperation Agreement with Russia
Nigeria and Russia have signed a military cooperation deal providing a legal framework for the supply of equipment and the training of troops, the Nigerian embassy in Moscow said on Wednesday. President Muhammadu Buhari had expressed interest in such a pact with Russia as far back as 2019, when he met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a Russia-Africa summit. The Nigerian ambassador to Russia at the time said Buhari felt Russia could help defeat the Boko Haram Islamic insurgency in the northeast of the country, which remains a major problem. “The Agreement on Military-Technical Cooperation between both countries provides a legal framework for the supply of military equipment, provision of after sales services, training of personnel in respective educational establishments and technology transfer, among others,” the Nigerian embassy said in a statement. … Reuters reported in July that U.S. lawmakers had put a hold on a proposal to sell almost $1 billion of weapons to Nigeria over concerns about possible human rights abuses by the government. Reuters

Gunmen Kill 44 People in Nigeria Revenge Attack
At least 44 people have been killed by gunmen in Plateau and Benue states in north central Nigeria. This brings to 77 the number of people so far killed in ethnoreligious crisis in a week. Despite the re-imposition of curfew following the August 14 killing of 33 Muslim travellers in Jos, Plateau state, 36 people, mostly Christians, have been killed in Jos north in a reprisal attack early on Wednesday. Eight people have also been killed in Benue State in a renewed clash between herders and farmers. The latest attack early on Wednesday took place at Yelwa Zangam in Plateau state. Militias of both religious and ethnic groups of Berom and Hausa have continued the attacks in defiance of the curfew imposed by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau. Angry youths on August 25 took to the streets of Jos to protest against the killings. … Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Jos North in a joint statement on Wednesday condemned the killing of innocent citizens. … “Religious leaders must stop making provocative statements at this time that we should be making efforts as leaders to assuage frayed nerves by words from the holy books which should build, rather than further tear us apart,” the association said. Nation

Nigeria Seeks Help of Retired Soldiers to Tackle Terrorists
Having lost over 100,000 people in the 12-year-old insurgency in the north-east zone, Nigeria, which suffered an attack on a military school on Tuesday, has resolved to engage retired soldiers to tackle insecurity. Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen Lucky Irabor, interacted with some retired military officers in Yola North East state of Adamawa on Tuesday where he said he had started mobilising for the recall of retired officers. “It is part of the reason why I am here with my team, to interact with our retired senior colleagues to look for holistic solutions about how to bring to an end the insecurity in the region,” he at the meeting which was held at 23 Armoured Brigade in Yola. “We believe that as we interact and engage them, they will be ready to open up to us in areas that will enhance security,” he added. Gen Irabor said that the engagement of retired soldiers from the north east region would be a productive and a quick solution to the terrorist menace. … His security tour kicked off as the military launched a manhunt for the gunmen who killed two officers and abducted another one from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Afaka, Kaduna State on Tuesday morning. Nation

Hezbollah in Africa: Forgotten Link in Cocaine Trafficking to Antwerp, Rotterdam
“Moi, c’est Monsieur X.” The man before us at the table is already on his third cigarette before he speaks his first words. We are on the patio of a bar in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast and one of the most important port cities in West Africa. For security reasons, we cannot indicate when the interview took place. Our source is a Shia Muslim, an Ivorian of Lebanese origin who, after much hesitation, wants to tell us about the role of his community in the cocaine traffic throughout the port. The information he is going to give us, he says, could cost him his life. He wants complete anonymity and asks three times how we can guarantee it. “You see, I live among them. I have a family. They can easily get to me.” We came here to investigate Highway 10, the cocaine route from South America to Europe, via West African ports. Abidjan, the port city where we are located, appears for the first time in an investigation by the Italian investigative journalistic collective, IRPI. They traced a shipment of cocaine back from Antwerp to here. At the end of March this year, the French navy intercepted six tons of cocaine destined for Abidjan on the open sea, according to information from the Dutch police. … “The drugs come in via the port, the money goes out via the airport. Seventy per cent of the drug traffic here is in Lebanese hands. The rest is divided among Brazilians, Nigerians and Italians.” Premium Times

Arab League, OIC Call for Algeria-Morocco Dialogue amid Spat
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Arab League and Saudi Arabia have called for “dialogue” to resolve the diplomatic dispute between Algeria and Morocco. Algeria on Tuesday said it had cut diplomatic relations with Morocco because of “hostile actions,” following months of resurgent tensions between the North African rivals. The OIC “called for dialogue to resolve any possible differences,” a statement from the Jeddah-based organisation said on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia called on the nations “to prioritise dialogue” to help “achieve security and stability,” a foreign ministry statement read. Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit urged “both countries to exercise restraint and to avoid further escalation” in a statement late on Tuesday. Libya, which borders Algeria, said it “deeply regrets” the deterioration of relations and asked for “restraint,” in a statement from the foreign ministry. Tripoli also called for regional talks on the sidelines of the next Arab League meeting, scheduled for September 7 to 9 in Cairo. Al Jazeera

Sudan Says Ethiopian Dam Made No Impact on Floods This Year
The giant dam Ethiopia has constructed on the Blue Nile made no impact on this year’s floods in Sudan, which had taken costly precautions in the absence of any deal to regulate the flow of water, a Sudanese official said. Ethiopia has spent years in tense negotiations over the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Sudan and Egypt, both of which are downstream of the dam, but have yet to come to an agreement and the dam remains a bone of contention between the countries. Sudan has said the dam could have a positive effect on flooding during the rainy season, and hoped to benefit from electricity production, but has complained of a lack of information from Ethiopia on the dam’s operation. Sudan and Egypt had demanded Ethiopia hold off on a second round of filling the dam before a binding agreement was signed regulating its operation and mandating the sharing of data Sudan feels is necessary to maintain its own dams and water stations. Reuters

Uganda Takes in Evacuees from Afghanistan, Honoring a U.S. Request.
At least 51 people who fled from Afghanistan landed in Uganda on Wednesday, the authorities said, the first to arrive in an African nation amid the race to complete such evacuations before the United States withdraws its military from Afghanistan by the month’s end. Uganda said last week that it was preparing to temporarily host evacuees from Afghanistan after a request from the U.S. government. The East African nation is Africa’s top refugee-hosting nation — with nearly 1.5 million displaced people living within its borders — and the top fourth refugee host in the world, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency. The evacuees’ arrival came 10 days after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and hours after President Biden said the United States was on pace for its withdrawal by the Aug. 31 deadline. Their arrival also came as the Pentagon said it had airlifted its biggest daily number of evacuees from Kabul’s airport on Tuesday. Some of those are now reaching countries that, like Uganda, agreed to serve as temporary transit stops. In Uganda on Wednesday morning, the evacuees underwent a security screening and were tested for the coronavirus, the Foreign Ministry said. News outlets shared photos on social media of them arriving at a local hotel. Ugandan officials have said that the United States is paying for the evacuees’ upkeep, with aid groups like Mercy Corps also promising to step in. The New York Times

Seven to Compete for Cape Verde Presidency on October 17
Cape Verde’s Constitutional Court has approved seven candidates for the October 17 presidential election, it said in a statement. Mr Péricles Tavares was the only candidate rejected due to some irregularities, the court added. This is the first time that Cape Verde has seven official candidates for the country’s top job since independence from Portugal in 1975. The candidates include José Maria Pereira Neves, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, Fernando Rocha Delgado, Gilson João dos Santos Alves, Hélio de Jesus Pina Sanches, Joaquim Jaime Monteiro and Casimiro Jesus Lopes de Pina. … Electoral campaigns will take place from September 30 to October 15. In the event of a presidential run-off, this will be scheduled for October 31. Cape Verde has had four Presidents since independence: the late Aristides Pereira (1975-1991), the late António Mascarenhas Monteiro (1991-2001), the first by direct election, Pedro Pires (2001-2011) and Jorge Carlos Fonseca (2011 to present). The EastAfrican

Benin: They Were the World’s Only All-Female Army. Their Descendants Are Fighting to Recapture Their Humanity.
Her step-grandmother could remove a man’s head with a curved blade. She could scale a wall of thorns. She devoted her life to defending the king. These details — all true, the elderly woman said — landed in the notes of foreign explorers. But they failed to capture the whole story. Nanlèhoundé Houédanou wants people to know more about the Amazons of Dahomey, the only documented female army in modern history. Researchers have spent decades combing through European and West African archives to craft a portrait from the jottings of French officers, British traders and Italian missionaries. Yet a crucial piece of the Amazon legacy has been lost to the eraser of time and colonial rule: Their humanity. “My Amazon was gentle,” said Houédanou, who, at 85, is one of the last people on Earth to have grown up with one. “She was known for protecting children.” … Now a team of Beninese researchers is working to reshape the narrative. For the last three years, historians at the African School of Economics, a private university that Wantchekon founded near Cotonou, the capital, have been tracking down descendants of Amazons across the nation. They aim to glean local memories for a book that can be taught in schools — to present a three-dimensional view of the real Amazons. Only 50 of the women are thought to have survived the two-year war with France. The last died in the 1970s. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones