Africa Media Review for August 31, 2021

Cries from the Community: Listening to the People of Cabo Delgado
Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado has been plagued by the rise of violent extremism since 2017. More than 3,300 people have reportedly been killed by Ahlu Sunnah wa Jama’a (ASWJ), often in ways intended to shock and terrorize local communities. More than two-thirds of ASWJ violence targets civilians, distinguishing the violent extremist activity in Mozambique even among other militant Islamist groups in Africa. The violence in Cabo Delgado has also generated over 800,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), out of a total provincial population of 2.3 million. The risk of violence in northern Mozambique spreading to other parts of the country and southern Africa has prompted a series of external commitments to assist the Mozambican government in its fight against the insurgency. These include deployments by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), of which Mozambique is a member, a 1,000 member-strong Rwandan force, and training missions by the European Union, Portugal, and the United States. … Less well recognized is that the violent extremist threat in northern Mozambique exploits underlying societal vulnerabilities of inequity, insecure land rights, and distrust of authorities. An effective response in Cabo Delgado, therefore, will require more than conventional security actions. Understanding the local dynamics that have made this region vulnerable to destabilization will be vital to an effective security strategy. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

A New Breed of Crisis: War and Warming Collide in Afghanistan
Parts of Afghanistan have warmed twice as much as the global average. Spring rains have declined, most worryingly in some of the country’s most important farmland. Droughts are more frequent in vast swaths of the country, including a punishing dry spell now in the north and west, the second in three years. Afghanistan embodies a new breed of international crisis, where the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope. … In Somalia, pummeled by decades of conflict, there’s been a threefold increase in extreme weather events since 1990, compared to the previous 20 year-period, making it all but impossible for ordinary people to recover after each shock. In 2020, more than a million Somalis were displaced from their homes, about a third because of drought, according to the United Nations. … In Mali, a violent insurgency has made it harder for farmers and herders to deal with a succession of droughts and flood, according to aid agencies. The New York Times

Surge in Jihadist Violence against Civilians in Mali: UN
The UN mission in Mali warned Monday that violence against civilians, notably by jihadists but also by sectarian militias and the army, is on the rise in the poor Sahel country. In a quarterly report covering April, May and June, MINUSMA’s human rights division said the Islamists were pushing southward. “Through local ‘non-aggression or reconciliation’ agreements signed under duress by beleaguered communities, these groups have also been able to impose draconian restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms, particularly against women,” the report said. “Between April and June, at least 527 civilians were killed, injured or abducted/disappeared, an overall increase of more than 25 percent from the first quarter” of 2021, it said. The Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and other jihadist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) were responsible for 54 percent of the casualties and kidnappings, the report said. AFP

Kenya Admits COVID-19 Deaths Data Inaccurate
The Kenyan government has admitted that its daily statistics on Covid-19 deaths may be inaccurate due to the lack of pathologists in the counties. Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache told a parliamentary committee that the ministry can only confirm deaths that occur within hospitals and post-mortem exams of a few that happen within the community. “People are dying in numbers but we cannot give evidence that the community death occurs as a result of Covid-19 complications when issues of pathology are absent at counties,” she said. Ms Mochache said only four officers who conduct such examinations on Covid-19 deaths are in the Ministry of Health headquarters. “I agree with your observations on the recording of deaths since we are not able to capture all community deaths,” she told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by Opiyo Wandayi. Ms Mochache said the country is already on the fourth wave of coronavirus as statistics have continued to indicate. The EastAfrican

Activists Go into Hiding as South Sudan Warns against Protests
A South Sudanese activist said Monday that he and four others had gone into hiding, abandoning plans for an anti-government demonstration as the authorities warned of a tough crackdown against any protesters. The world’s newest nation has suffered from chronic instability since independence in 2011, with deepening discontent prompting civil society groups to urge its leadership to step down, saying they have “had enough.” The demonstration was set to take place the same day as President Salva Kiir inaugurated a newly-created national parliament, a key condition of a 2018 peace deal that ended the country’s brutal civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people. But as heavily-armed security forces patrolled the capital Juba, protesters were nowhere to be seen, with one organiser telling AFP that he and four other members of the People’s Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA) were now in hiding and feared for their lives. “It is a peaceful protest; it is supposed to be non-violent but the government responded with violence,” said Wani Michael. “There have been massive deployments… these guys are carrying AK-47s, they are carrying machine guns, and there are tanks on the roads. So citizens fear… they will be met with violence,” he added. … In a sign of the lingering challenges facing the country, Kiir also announced that the government was pulling out of negotiations with the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOMA), a coalition of rebel groups. AFP

Truck Drivers’ Strike over Attacks in South Sudan Enters Second Week
Truck drivers’ strike at Elegu border post on the Uganda-South Sudan border has entered the second week, interrupting the flow of goods to South Sudan and raising fears the Juba may soon run short of supplies. The truck drivers are protesting against frequent attacks on the Juba-Yei road, as well as the Juba-Nimule- road leading to Uganda. The strike, which started on August 23, has continued even as authorities said Uganda and South Sudan plan to provide joint security escorts for cargo trucks from Nimule-Juba and from Juba-Nimule. Truck drivers from Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundian have demanded security. “The drivers want assurance from East African Community (EAC) Secretariat on improving security along the Nimule-Juba highway,” said Byron Kinene, the chairman of Regional Lorry Drivers and Transporters Association. The EastAfrican

Tanzania’s Opposition Leader Arrives in Court under Tight Security
The leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party appeared in the country’s high court on Tuesday to face terrorism charges in a case described by his party as a politically-motivated move to crush dissent. Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe and his supporters accuse police of torturing him in custody to force him to make a statement in the trial which opened under tight security, with most journalists banned from the courtroom by police. Mbowe has been behind bars since July 21 when he was arrested along with other senior Chadema officials in a night-time police raid just hours before they were to hold a public forum to demand constitutional reforms. The 59-year-old has been charged with terrorism financing and conspiracy in a case that has sparked concerns about the state of democracy and the rule of law under President Samia Suluhu Hassan. … Representatives from the British and US embassies were present at Tuesday’s hearing in the Dar es Salaam court, which was also attended by Chadema’s senior leaders. The opposition has denounced the arrests as a throwback to the oppressive rule of Tanzania’s late leader John Magufuli who died suddenly in March. AFP

After Months, Egypt Frees Reporter, Activist, YouTube Star
Egypt has released an online comedian, a journalist and a political activist after they spent months in pre-trail detention, two lawyers said Monday. It was the latest in a series of recent releases amid concerns by the United States and international rights groups over the arrest and harassment of rights advocates and critics of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s government. Youtuber Shadi Srour, journalist Shaimaa Sami and activist Ziyad Aboel-Fadel walked free late Sunday from a police headquarters in Cairo, said the two lawyers, Khalid Ali and Ismael el-Rashedi. Security forces had arrested Srour, who is also an actor, at Cairo International Airport in December 2019 upon his arrival from the U.S. He became popular on YouTube for his satirical videos that attracted millions of viewers. In 2019, he posted a video titled “Enough el-Sissi” in which he endorsed calls made by the self-exiled Egyptian businessman Mohamed Ali for people to rise up and rebel against the president. … Despite their lengthy detention, those arrested and released have yet to stand trial. AP

Libya’s UN Envoy Says Time Running out for Polls Framework
The UN envoy to Libya Jan Kubis said on Monday that time was pressing for Libyans to finalise a legal framework for elections to be held on time in December. “The (Libyan) government has taken the necessary dispositions to hold elections but we need a legal framework,” Kubis said at the opening of a meeting in Algeria of Libya’s neighbours. “The members of parliament are now trying to finalise the electoral law and time is running out,” Kubis said in statements carried in French by the official Algerian news agency APS. The two-day ministerial meeting is aimed at helping Libyans achieve national reconciliation and draw a roadmap for organising the polls. But recent talks in Geneva have exposed deep divisions over when to hold elections, what elections to hold, and on what constitutional grounds, threatening to plunge Libya back into crisis. … Kubis on Monday said that Libya’s unity government backed by the UN has “allocated the necessary budget for the elections. “But it is important that as soon as possible we have a legal framework” for the polls, he said. AFP

Tunisian Ex-Presidential Contender Held in Algeria: Reports
Liberal party leader Nabil Karoui, runner-up in Tunisia’s 2019 presidential election that saw Kais Saied elected, has been arrested in Algeria along with his MP brother, media reports said Monday. The privately owned Radio Mosaique FM said border police arrested the Qalb Tounes party chief and his brother Ghazi Karoui in the Tebessa region of northeast Algeria. … He was arrested in 2019 and spent more than a month in prison at the height of the presidential election campaign. He was freed but rearrested last December and spent six months in pre-trial detention before being let out again in June 2021. Karoui’s presidential campaign focused on the fight against poverty and his opposition to Islamist politics despite allying himself with the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party. He lost out to Saied, a retired law professor and political newcomer, as the electorate rejected the political class that had ruled since the 2011 revolution. On 25 July , Saied dismissed parliament, sacked the prime minister and granted himself sweeping powers, invoking the constitution as justification. AFP

7 Minors among 29 Dead on Migrant Boat to Canary Islands
At least 29 Africans, including seven children, died last week while trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands on a smuggling boat, according to information released Monday from a U.N. migration agency and a Spanish migrant charity in touch with victims’ relatives. Spanish maritime services on Friday rescued 27 migrants and recovered 4 bodies in the boat that was spotted by a fishing vessel 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of El Hierro, an island in the Canary archipelago off northwest Africa. But at least 24 more people were on the boat when it left Aug. 15 from Dakhla, a port city in the disputed Western Sahara, said Helena Maleno, founder of the Walking Borders non-profit group. Maleno’s organization came up with the figure after conducting extensive interviews with relatives looking for their loved ones. She said only one of the eight children traveling on the boat survived but the girl lost her mother during the trip. AP

Sudan, Chad Agree to Boost Security, Fight Cross-Border Terror Threats
The Chairman of the Chadian Transitional Military council Mohammed Idriss Deby Monday visited Sudan in a bid to solicit regional support in rebuilding the north-central Africa African state. The Sudan Sovereignty Council President Abdulfettah al-Burhan met with Chad AGK President Deby and his accompanying delegation at the Republic Palace in the capital Khartoum. In a statement, Derby said his visit was also meant to strengthen the cooperation and relations between Sudan and Chad. Faced with related security issues, the two countries embraced the integration, concerted efforts and joint cooperation with the African Union in the field of border security, the fight against terrorism and the fight against cross-border security violations. AfricaNews

Sudan Inaugurates New Plan to Combat Human Trafficking
The transitional government on Monday launched a new national action plan to combat human trafficking in Sudan which is the primary transit country of migrants to Europe from the Horn of Africa. With the participation of Justice Minister Nasreldine Abdel Bari and European Union Ambassador to Sudan Robert van den Dool, the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCT) inaugurated the National Action Plan for Combating Human Trafficking 2021-2023 in Sudan. Undersecretary Ministry of Justice and NCCT Head Siham Osman stated that the three-year plan aims to curb human trafficking through several programmes to reduce poverty and offer new options for migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Also, the plan will ensure better protection and shelter for the victims including the establishment of specialised prosecutor offices and courts, cross-border cooperation and access for victims of trafficking to legal aid to improve investigation and prosecution. The EU-supported action plan met the four core aspects to combating human trafficking including “Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Coordination and Partnership,” said Osman. Sudan Tribune

Nearly 45,000 People Currently Declared Missing across Africa- ICRC
More than 44,000 people, 45% of them children, are currently declared missing across Africa, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement marking the International Day of the Disappeared. About 82% of those missing are from just seven countries with armed conflicts, the ICRC said. Nigeria accounts for more than half of the total number of missing persons in Africa. Some 24,000 people have been registered missing in the country. Other countries with high numbers of disappeared people include Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon. The ICRC said the continent had seen a rise in the number of missing people in the past year as a result of armed conflicts and other forms of violence. AfricaNews

Nigeria to Partner with Bitt Inc to Launch ‘eNaira’ Digital Currency
Nigeria will work with Bitt Inc as a technical partner in its bid to launch its own cryptocurrency, the “eNaira,” the Central Bank said on Monday. The Central Bank announced plans to launch its own digital currency later this year after Nigeria barred banks and financial institutions from dealing in or facilitating transactions in cryptocurrencies in February. Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele has said the eNaira would operate as a wallet against which customers can hold existing funds in their bank account. In a statement on Monday, Emefiele said the currency would accelerate financial inclusion and enable cheaper and faster remittance inflows. Barbados-based Bitt earlier this year led development of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union’s “DCash,” the first digital cash issued by a currency union central bank. Reuters

The World Has Finally Stopped Using Leaded Gasoline. Algeria Used the Last Stockpile
Leaded gasoline’s century-long reign of destruction is over. The final holdout, Algeria, used up the last of its stockpile of leaded gasoline in July. That’s according to the U.N. Environment Programme, which has spent 19 years trying to eliminate leaded gasoline around the globe. “The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director, said Monday. The United Nations estimates that the global phaseout of the toxic fuel has saved $2.44 trillion per year, thanks to improved health and lower crime rates, and prevented more than 1.2 million premature deaths. … Rob de Jong, the head of UNEP’s sustainable transport unit, has been working on the leaded-gasoline phaseout effort since it started in 2002. It has meant persuading people who had only ever driven on leaded fuels that it would be worth paying more money to switch to exclusively unleaded. He says the vast majority of the developing world embraced the phaseout within a decade. But a handful of countries were holdouts, particularly Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, Myanmar, North Korea and Afghanistan. He points to two main reasons. First, countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen were at war. “Of course, it’s not easy to work in these countries, and they have got other priorities,” he says. Secondly, corruption: “In some of these countries, officials were bribed by the chemical industry that was producing these additives. … They were bribed to buy large stockpiles,” he says. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones