Africa Media Review for August 3, 2021

As War Spreads in Ethiopia, Killings and Starvation Grow Worse
Ethiopia’s nine-month-old war in Tigray is spilling across regional boundaries to new parts of the country, triggering growing fears of starvation and atrocities as fresh reports emerge of another possible massacre. Tigrayan forces have advanced deeper into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions in recent days, passing through the outskirts of Lalibela, one of Ethiopia’s most popular tourist towns, famed for its historic churches hewn from rock. The government has mobilized ethnic militias to battle the Tigrayan advance, raising the spectre of further escalation in a war that is already believed to have killed tens of thousands. At least 30 bodies, some with gunshot wounds or bound hands, have washed up in Sudan after floating down a river from western Tigray, according to several media reports on Monday, quoting Sudanese authorities and other witnesses. … The U.S. foreign-aid agency, USAID, said the humanitarian supplies “face a constant stream of bureaucratic delays [and] demands for additional approvals.” Aid workers and convoys “have been rigorously searched and attacked,” it said. … The Tigrayan advance into neighbouring territory, combined with the government’s decision to mobilize regional militias, “is exacerbating an already grave humanitarian situation for civilians in the affected regions and putting at risk the stability of the Ethiopian state,” the agency said. The Globe and Mail

#COVID19: Third Wave Hits Nigeria amidst Nationwide Doctors’ Strike
The Nigerian government has officially announced that the country has entered the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Osagie Ehanire, the country’s Minister of Health, disclosed the development during a briefing by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 on Monday evening, Aug. 2. “Nigeria has begun to record a sharp increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the month of July, as global anxiety over the Delta variant spreads,” Ehanire said. “All data indicate that we are now no doubt in the third wave of resurgence of the SARS-COV-2 infection, which we saw coming long ago.” … Babajide Sanwolu, Lagos State Governor who also confirmed the development… “We do not have a choice than to tackle it. We are no longer inexperienced, as a people, in dealing with the Coronavirus. Eighteen months into the pandemic, we have learnt a lot, we have seen progress and setbacks, we have been able to finetune our strategies and response, and we are now in a good place to ensure that this third wave is the final one,” he added. … As of Monday morning, August 2, Nigeria has more than 7,000 active Covid-19 cases, and 2,149 people have died from the disease. … The latest development comes on the heels of an ongoing nationwide doctors’ strike over better working conditions. There are concerns the strike could pose a danger to the treatment of Delta variant and vaccine distribution. HumAngle

Tanzania Opposition Arrests Dent Hopes of Political Change
When Samia Suluhu Hassan took up the reins of power in Tanzania four months ago, there was hope at home and abroad she would turn the page on the increasingly autocratic rule of her late predecessor. But with the arrest of a high-profile opposition leader on terrorism charges, critics are now openly brandishing the term “dictator” to describe Tanzania’s first woman president. Hassan, a stalwart in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party who served as vice president throughout John Magufuli’s rule, was sworn in as head of state following his sudden death in March. … But his rule was marred by a slide into authoritarianism which saw him crack down on the media, activists and free speech. In the weeks after her swearing-in, the soft-spoken Hassan reached out to the political opposition, vowing to defend democracy and basic freedoms, and reopening banned media outlets. … Police last month arrested members of the main opposition party Chadema, including its leader Freeman Mbowe, in a nighttime raid just hours before they were to hold a public forum to demand constitutional reform. Mbowe has since been charged with terrorism financing and conspiracy and is being held behind bars in Dar es Salaam. … Despite Hassan’s promises, political rallies are still not allowed, and she told editors last month that the opposition should postpone such events to focus on building the economy. AFP

South Sudan Swears in New Parliament Vowed under Peace Deal
South Sudan on Monday swore in hundreds of lawmakers to a newly created national parliament, a long overdue condition of a fragile peace deal that ended civil war in the young country. In all, 588 MPs — a mix of delegates from the ruling party and former rebel factions who signed the truce — took the oath of office at a ceremony in Juba presided over by the chief justice. The creation of an inclusive national assembly was a key condition of the 2018 ceasefire that paused five years of bloodshed between government and rebel forces that left nearly 400,000 people dead. Like several other urgent and crucial provisions of the peace accords, the convening of parliament went long unfulfilled, eroding trust between the political rivals that unified in a tenuous coalition after the war. It comes nearly a year behind schedule and remains incomplete, with 62 MPs absent from the swearing-in ceremony, some because of squabbles with the government over the power-sharing arrangement. AFP

South Sudan Activists Arrested After Call for Uprising
Government security agents in South Sudan on Monday arrested at least two prominent activists who joined a call for a peaceful public uprising to seek political change, one of their colleagues said. A coalition of civil society groups last week issued a declaration saying they have “had enough” after 10 years of independence marked by civil war, escalating insecurity, hunger and political instability. Kuel Aguer Kuel, a former state governor, and renowned analyst Augustino Ting Mayai, were arrested in the capital Juba for signing the declaration, said Rajab Mohandis, another of the signatories. The arrests came on the same day that hundreds of lawmakers were sworn in to a newly created national parliament, a key condition of a peace deal that ended South Sudan’s brutal civil war. The Sudd Institute, an independent think tank involved in the coalition, has also been shut down and its executive director Abraham Awolich is among other activists also being sought by the authorities, Mohandis told AFP. Awolich said in a separate statement on Twitter that he was on the run after the Sudd Institute was stormed and its staff arrested over Friday’s declaration by the People’s Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA). AFP

Detained ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ Protesters Want SSS Boss Jailed for Disobeying Court Order
Five detained ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ activists have commenced a contempt suit against the director-general of the State Security Service (SSS), Yusuf Bichi, for disobeying the court order for their release from custody. … Ben Manasseh, Anene Udoka, Henry Nwodo, Samuel Larry and Samuel Gabriel were arrested for wearing T-shirts with the inscription, ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ at the Dunamis International Gospel Centre in Abuja, on July 4. Premium Times reported how the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the release of the five detainees on July 26, and adjourned the applicants’ main suits each seeking N10million damages, for further hearing. Instead of releasing the detainees, the SSS rushed to a chief magistrate’s court in Mpape, Abuja, on July 28, to arraign them on charges of disturbance of peace. The defendants, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, were promptly granted bail by the chief magistrate, Mohammed Zubairu. On Monday, the chief magistrate issued a notice for the release of the five defendants premised on the grounds that they had met their bail conditions. Despite being served with the notice, according to Tope Temokun, the SSS has refused to release the detainees. Premium Times

Abba Kyari: Nigeria Police Chief Appoints New Intelligence Unit Head
Usman Alkali Baba, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, has approved the appointment of Tunde Disu as the new head of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), following the suspension of Abba Kyari, who formerly headed the unit. A statement by Frank Mba, police spokesperson on Monday, August 2, said Disu would take up the position immediately without further delay.“The posting of the officer is on the heels of Management’s decision to fill the leadership gap within the IRT and refocus the Unit for better service delivery,” the statement read in part. His appointment comes as the police force continues its internal investigation into the fraud allegations levelled against Kyari, a highly decorated cop, by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He was alleged to be involved in the $1.1 million swindling of a Qatari businessperson by Ramon Abbas popularly known as Hushpuppi who is currently being held in the U.S. According to court documents, Hushpuppi had paid Kyari ₦8million to arrest his gang member-turned-rival, Kelly Chibuzo who was displeased by his cut from the fraud proceeds. A US court had ordered his arrest. HumAngle

‘Withering Before Your Eyes’: Conflict in Cabo Delgado Scars a Generation of Children
The conflict in Cabo Delgado has been devastating for children. Samuel and Alex are just two of more than 2,000 young people registered with the International Organization for Migration who do not know where their parents are, or if they are even alive. More than 364,000 children have been displaced by the violence. Schools have closed, and at least 51 boys and girls have been abducted by the insurgents. Experts fear that the trauma of displacement, separation from families and witnessing violence is devastating an entire generation of Cabo Delgado’s youth. “The children seem as if they are withering before your eyes,” says Nourshan Hannan, a Save the Children worker in Cabo Delgado. … “We know that toxic stress exposures, including traumatic separation, including exposure to direct violence, get under the skin. And they actually have lasting consequences for mental health, as well as for learning, and for other areas of behaviour,” says Dr. Theresa Betancourt, an expert on children and conflict at Boston College. The Telegraph

AFRICOM Commander Participates in Cutlass Express, JCET Opening Ceremonies during East Africa Trip
US Africa Command leaders including commander, US Army General Stephen Townsend, and US Marine Corps Sergeant Major Richard Thresher, command senior enlisted leader, conducted a multi-national East Africa trip, visiting Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia and Djibouti from 25-30 July. During the trip Townsend participated in the opening ceremonies for exercise Cutlass Express 2021 at the Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa, Kenya, and the Joint Combined Exchange Training in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Additionally, Townsend and the traveling delegation conducted numerous key leader engagements with partners across East Africa, Africom said. Prior to the opening ceremony, Townsend met with key Kenyan military leaders in Mombasa to discuss cooperative efforts to enhance regional security and stability. “The US Africa Command mission is partner-centric,” said Townsend. “In East Africa, we work alongside Kenyan forces to fight al-Shabaab, maintain awareness in the western Indian Ocean, and assure regional security. We are grateful for our relationship with Kenya, which will only continue to grow as we move forward together.” defenceWeb

South Africa: Past and Present Push Phoenix over Edge
At the Dube Village Mall in Inanda, north of Durban, a group of pensioners, mostly women, sweeps up the charred remains of the devastation and destruction caused by three days and nights of rioting, chaos and gun battles. The mall may never recover from the damage it suffered during the rioting. Hundreds of scarce jobs are at risk. Dube Village is named after John Langalibalele Dube, the prolific intellectual, founder of Ohlange High School in Inanda as well as the first isiZulu newspaper, Ilanga lase Natal, and the first president of the organisation that later became the ANC. It was one of the first places to be hit as riots exploded on Sunday night 11 July after President Cyril Ramaphosa, addressing South Africans on Covid-19 regulations, called the initial disturbances following Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment a result of “ethnic mobilization.” … All the residents interviewed in Phoenix, Inanda and Bhambayi collectively agree on one thing: if policing had been effective, they would not have been left to take matters into their own hands. It was this lack of security that paved the way for uncoordinated chaos, opportunistic vigilantism and murderous acts of criminality to thrive. Some say the police, who have been under-resourced for years, were overwhelmed and outnumbered. Several residents in Phoenix say police officers encouraged civilians to get their guns – licensed and unlicensed – and “shoot.” New Frame

In South Africa, Poachers Now Traffic in Tiny Succulent Plants
Police search the desert trying to track down the poachers selling Conophytums to collectors worldwide, threatening to wipe out rare plants in the wild. … Conophytum, a genus of flowering plants that consists of over 100 species — including several listed as endangered — are the latest victims of a global wave of succulent poaching driven by surging demand from collectors and enthusiasts around the world, but especially in China and Korea, experts said. … “Conophytums are the big thing now” said Captain Karel Du Toit, the officer behind the sting operation that led to Mr. Kaffer’s arrest. Capt. Du Toit, himself an avid Conophytum admirer, said he used to spend most of his time investigating cases of stolen livestock, but since 2018, fighting succulent poaching had become a full-time job. “Eighty percent of those are plant cases” he said back in his office, pointing to a stack of case files piled on the floor beside his desk. “The problem is getting huge.” Once thought of in South Africa as plants for the poor, succulents have come into fashion internationally in recent years, valued for their quirky, sculptural forms and the relatively little maintenance they require. A search for #succulents now brings up over 12 million hits on Instagram. The New York Times

‘Collective Strength’: The LRA Captive Restoring Dignity to Survivors in Uganda
When Victoria Nyanjura was abducted from her Catholic boarding school in northern Uganda by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, she prayed to God asking to die. She was 14 when she was taken, along with 29 others, in the middle of the night. During the next eight years in captivity she was subjected to beatings, starvation, rape and other horrors that she cannot talk about even 18 years later. Five of the girls who were taken prisoner with her died, and Nyanjura gave birth to two children. “It really pains me that at the age of 14 I left home where not even one man had tried talking to me in terms of relationships and then to be captured and sexually exploited against my will … I really wanted to die,” she says. “I prayed for death but if it’s not your time, it’s not your time.” Little did she know in those darkest of years, when each morning she would wake not knowing if she would survive the day and when she would see bodies discarded under the trees, that she would not only live, but become a powerful advocate for women’s rights. After a dramatic escape one rainy night, Nyanjura was able to return to her family with her children, go back into education and start the process of healing. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones