Africa Media Review for August 9, 2021

Drones and Violent Nonstate Actors in Africa
The risk of militarization of drone technology in Africa represents a new asymmetric tool that violent nonstate groups may deploy to extend the reach of their coercion, reshaping the African battlefield. … In late 2016, the Islamic State (ISIS) reached an important milestone during the battle to secure the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq. In what is thought to be the first ever recorded use by violent nonstate actors in theatre, ISIS deployed a weaponized drone or Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The device, with a range of about a mile and a half, had been built and loaded with explosives and detonated in a densely populated urban battlefield. The impact was both physical and psychological. … Within Africa, the potential for insurgent groups to emulate such tactics as those observed in Iraq, has received little attention. There has been some focus on Libya with proxy supporters of both the Libyan Arab Armed Forces coalition of militias led by Khalifa Haftar in the east of the country and the Government of National Accord supplying drones for surveillance and long-range strategic strikes. However, it is the recent escalation in hostilities in the Cabo Delgado Province of northern Mozambique that has raised the specter of violent nonstate actors in Africa deploying this technology. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Zambia Deploys Military in Latest Sign of Democracy under Pressure
In the final days of their election campaign, Zambians have been startled by a menacing sight in the streets: military combat vehicles, packed with armed soldiers in camouflage uniforms. The Zambian government says it is merely a precaution to prevent violence in Thursday’s vote. Opposition supporters and independent analysts have called it a blatant attempt to intimidate the opposition – and they have noted that it is the first such military deployment in an election in Zambia since its independence in 1964. For many years, Zambia was a model African democracy, known for its fair votes, peaceful transfers of power between ruling parties and opposition parties, and a fearless electoral commission that did not hesitate to accept opposition victories. But its government has increasingly opted for authoritarian tactics in recent years. A study last year by the Varieties of Democracy Institute, based at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, concluded that Zambia was one of the world’s fastest eroding democracies. Thursday’s election is seen as a crucial test for Zambia’s increasingly fragile democracy. The Globe and Mail

Major U.N. Climate Report Warns of “Extreme” and “Unprecedented” Impacts
From flood to fire, 2021 has been a summer of extraordinary extremes across the globe — a sign that the impacts of climate change are already widespread and accelerating. Such extremes, and their connection to human-caused climate change, are just one main theme in a landmark climate report released Monday by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Written by more than 230 leading scientists from countries around the world, it is part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report — the most significant climate report published in years by the international science community. The report is a synthesis of work from over 14,000 research citations. It is, in effect, a climate science encyclopedia — a summary of the latest scientific consensus on climate change and what the future portends, through the use of sophisticated climate models and knowledge of past conditions. It is an update on how the Earth’s climate and our understanding of it have changed since the last such report in 2013. … U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the report a “code red for humanity.” Guterres said, “the alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk,” CBS News’ Pamela Falk reports. But also conveyed in the report is the knowledge that there’s still time to take action on the climate crisis. CBS

No Work, No Food: Pandemic Deepens Global Hunger
Even as thousands died and millions lost their jobs when the Covid-19 pandemic engulfed South Africa last year, Thembakazi Stishi, a single mother, was able to feed her family with the steady support of her father, a mechanic at a Mercedes plant. When another Covid-19 wave hit in January, Ms. Stishi’s father was infected and died within days. She sought work, even going door to door to offer housecleaning for $10 — to no avail. For the first time, she and her children are going to bed hungry. “I try to explain our situation is different now, no one is working, but they don’t understand,” Ms. Stishi, 30, said as her 3-year-old daughter tugged at her shirt. “That’s the hardest part.” The economic catastrophe set off by Covid-19, now deep into its second year, has battered millions of people like the Stishi family who had already been living hand-to-mouth. Now, in South Africa and many other countries, far more have been pushed over the edge. An estimated 270 million people are expected to face potentially life-threatening food shortages this year — compared to 150 million before the pandemic — according to analysis from the World Food Program, the anti-hunger agency of the United Nations. The number of people on the brink of famine, the most severe phase of a hunger crisis, jumped to 41 million people currently from 34 million last year, the analysis showed. The New York Times

Dozens of Civilians Killed by Suspected Jihadists in Northern Mali
Suspected jihadists massacred more than 40 civilians in northern Mali and killed 12 troops in an ambush in neighbouring Burkina Faso, officials said Monday, highlighting the security crisis gripping the two fragile states. More than 40 people were killed on Sunday when “terrorists” invaded the villages of Karou, Ouatagouna and Daoutegeft near Mali’s border with Niger, a military officer told AFP. … A local official, who also asked not to be identified for security reasons, said that “20 civilians were massacred in Karou. Fourteen civilians were killed in Ouatagouna, and other civilians were killed in the hamlet of Daoutegeft.” The assailants arrived on motorbike, taking the villagers by surprise, he said. An official at a fourth village said his locality had also come under attack. An army unit has been sent to provide help, a military officer said, but a source in a Malian NGO said communications with the area were poor after jihadists had attacked telecoms sites. … Mali has suffered two coups since August last year, and on July 20 military leader Colonel Assimi Goita survived an attempted assassination at a mosque in Bamako. Alioune Tine, an independent experts on human rights in the Sahel who reports to the United Nations, last week warned that a “critical threshold” had been breached in the country’s security situation. AFP

Rival South Sudanese Factions Clash, Two Sides Report Dozens of Soldiers Killed
Forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar and a splinter group have clashed in South Sudan, but the two sides gave conflicting reports on Saturday – with each claiming to have killed dozens of soldiers from the other side. The latest clashes, threatening the country’s fragile peace process, occurred in Magenis in the Upper Nile region, between forces loyal to Machar and those backing First Lieutenant General Simon Gatwech Dual. A spokesman for Machar’s SPLM/A-IO party, Lam Paul Gabriel, said the party’s forces responded “in self defence” and killed two major generals and over 27 soldiers. He said those fighting on SPLM/A-IO side lost three soldiers during the attack. The other side denied having suffered heavy losses and having launched an offensive. A spokesperson for Dual said that during the clashes 28 soldiers were killed on the enemy side and four on their side. … The clashes erupted after rival military leaders of the SPLM/A-IO announced on Wednesday that Machar had been ousted as head of his party and its armed forces. The military leaders said the party’s chief of staff, Dual, had been nominated interim party leader from the military wing. On Thursday Machar accused the rival military leaders of trying to block the country’s peace process. Reuters

COVID-19: Tunisia Vaccinates More than Half a Million People in One Day
More than half a million Tunisians received vaccinations on Sunday as part of a national campaign to control the outbreak of Covid-19 after the country received more than 6 million vaccine doses from Western and Arab countries. The slow pace of vaccinations and the handling of the pandemic sparked a wave of protests against the government of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, who was dismissed by President Kais Saied two weeks ago among a series of emergency measures. Five months after the start of Covid-19 vaccinations in the North African country, 1.3 million Tunisians have received two doses. In an effort to speed up the vaccination schedule, Tunisia opened vaccinations for those over the age of 40, with thousands flocking to inoculation centres. The Health Ministry said 551,000 people received a vaccination on Sunday. Tunisia seeks to vaccinate 50 percent of its 11.6 million people by mid-October. Intensive care units and emergency departments are full in hospitals across Tunisia. Doctors have complained of exhaustion and a shortage of oxygen supplies. The World Health Organization said last week that Tunisia, which has the world’s worst officially declared Covid-19 death toll, may be over the peak of the latest wave but the government must still speed up inoculations. France24 with Reuters, AFP

Sudan Recalls Ambassador to Ethiopia After Mediation Offer Rejected
Sudan recalled its ambassador to neighbouring Ethiopia on Sunday, frustrated by the stance of Ethiopian officials whom it said were refusing Sudan’s offer to mediate in the ongoing conflict in Tigray. “Ethiopia will improve its position if it considered what Sudan could do. ..instead of completely rejecting all of its efforts,” a statement from the foreign ministry read. Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday about the conflict in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, which has led to an influx of 53,400 refugees since late 2020. Hamdok’s offer came within the framework of his presidency of IGAD, a grouping that includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, Sudan, Uganda and Somalia, the statement said. Spokespeople for the Ethiopian ministry of foreign affairs and the prime minister did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sudan recalling its ambassador. On Thursday the prime minister’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, dismissed the possibility of Sudan mediating on the conflict in the northern region of Tigray. Reuters

Mozambican, Rwandan Forces Retake Port Town from Insurgents
Mozambican and Rwandan security forces have recaptured the port town of Mocimboa da Praia, an insurgents’ stronghold, the two countries said on Sunday, adding to a growing list of retaken towns and villages. Mozambique’s northern-most province of Cabo Delgado, which has gas developments worth some $60 billion, has since 2017 harboured an Islamist insurgency. Since last year, the unrest has escalated as insurgents, linked to Islamic State, seized entire towns, including the strategically important Mocimboa da Praia. Last month, the Rwandan government deployed a 1,000-strong force to Mozambique to fight alongside Mozambique’s forces and troops of the 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC). Mocimboa da Praia, 60 kilometres (37 miles) south of the gas projects, previously served as the main airport for international workers flying into the gas developments and its port is used for cargo deliveries. Reuters

US Blacklists Five ‘Terrorist Leaders’ in Africa
The US State Department on Friday added five alleged senior members of jihadist groups in Africa to its terror blacklist, blocking access to any property or interests they may have in the United States. Heading the additions was Bonomade Machude Omar, the senior commander of ISIS-Mozambique, who led the deadly attack on the Amarula Hotel in the town of Palma in March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. In the Palma assault, the jihadists reportedly beheaded residents and ransacked buildings, killing at least a dozen and displacing more than 8,000. Omar is also responsible for other attacks in Mozambique and Tanzania, Blinken said. Also named on the State Department’s Specially Designated Global Terrorists list were Sidan ag Hitta and Salem ould Breihmatt, senior leaders of the Mali-based Al-Qaeda branch Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM). Ali Mohamed Rage, a spokesman for extremist militant group Al-Shabaab, and Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, an operations planner for the same group, were also included. AFP

Ivory Coast Frees Dozens of People Detained over Election Violence
Judicial authorities in Ivory Coast have freed dozens of people arrested during a violence-marred presidential election last year, President Alassane Ouattara said on Friday. Roughly 100 people died in violence linked to the election last October, which saw Ouattara voted in for a third term. Opposition candidates boycotted the vote, saying the constitution limited presidents to two terms in office. “I note the release under judicial supervision or provisional freedom of 69 accused detainees following the events of the October 2020 presidential election,” Ouattara said in a televised speech. He added that he had granted pardons to nine people convicted of offences committed during the same events. “The examination of the situation of other people still detained is continuing,” he said. … Opposition leaders Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bedie, both former presidents, had requested the prisoner release. Gbagbo had asked for more than 100 people to be freed, including some who were involved in another bout of election-related violence during 2010 and 2011. AFP

Abba Kyari: The Nigerian Super Sleuth Wanted in the US
He is a highly decorated police officer who investigates big criminal cases. And he hangs out with politicians and celebrities. But Mr Kyari’s reputation has come under scrutiny since US law enforcement agencies indicated that he is wanted over allegations of links to Instagram influencer and fraudster Ray Hushpuppi. … For Mr Kyari’s critics, the allegations come as no surprise. They point out that the 46-year-old – feted by President Muhammadu Buhari as a hero – has in the past faced allegations of corruption and human rights abuses in Nigeria. … Ken Henshaw, head of We The People, a human rights organisation, said Mr Kyari had been rewarded by a system based on patronage which, in some cases, even punished people with integrity. “The accusations against him are consistent with those that have been established against the Nigeria police, and its top-ranking officers in the past,” said Mr Henshaw. But the Nigeria Police Commission has been forced to suspend Mr Kyari. This came after US officials dropped a bombshell last week by announcing that they had instituted indictment proceedings against him following allegations that he facilitated payments to Nigeria police personnel from Hushpuppi, whose real name is Ramon Abbas. Hushpuppi – who had 2.4 million followers on Instagram – pleaded guilty to money laundering in the US after being extradited from Dubai last year. … US officials allege in an affidavit that Hushpuppi got Mr Kyari to arrest Vincent Chibuzor, with whom he had fallen out. BBC

South Africa’s Three Bloodiest Days: 342 Dead and We Are Still in the Dark
After weeks of investigation, DM168 has compiled some degree of information about how 109 deaths happened in South Africa during July’s civil unrest. This is, to our knowledge, the most comprehensive unofficial register available at this point – yet it accounts for less than one-third of the 342 total deaths announced by authorities. Of the cases where the cause of death was able to be established, at least 70% died as a result of being struck either by live ammunition or rubber bullets at close range. Of particular concern is the fact that the majority of these shootings appear to have been carried out by civilians, starkly highlighting the extent to which vigilantism and criminality became the order of the day. As will be detailed, however, there were also an astonishing number of different ways in which those involved in looting met their death. Stampedes, which seem to have become a catch-all term for the cause of death of those who did not die by murder, were just one. Daily Maverick

Journalist Murdered in Eastern DR Congo
Heritier Magayane, 26, who was married and had two children, had been working for Radio Television nationale congolaise in Rutshuru territory since 2018, his colleague Roger Sebyeradu told AFP. He received a phone call from someone who arranged a place to meet him and that’s where he was killed overnight Saturday, his throat slit, said Luc Albert Bakole Nyengeke, Rutshuru’s military administrator. The region is plagued by various armed groups but the area where he was killed was controlled by the Congolese army, he said, adding a probe was underway on Sunday. His colleague Sebyeradu said he thought his murder could be linked to his work. “After killing him they even took his phone,” he said. Magayane fronted programmes for young people, advising them to “make room for peace” in a deeply unstable region, he added. North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri have been in a state of siege for three months, the strongest measure under the constitution, as the government tries to end endemic insecurity in the east. AFP/Nation

Evidence Points to Secret Indian Navy Base on Mauritian Island
Satellite imagery, financial data and on-the-ground evidence obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit point to India building a naval facility on the remote Mauritian island of Agaléga. Military experts who have analysed Al Jazeera’s evidence say an airstrip under construction will almost certainly be used for maritime patrol missions by India’s navy. Rumours and media reports about the military base first surfaced in 2018 but both Mauritius and India have denied that the construction project is for military purposes and say the infrastructure is only to benefit the islanders. Satellite pictures reveal how Agaléga, located about 1,100km (684 miles) from Mauritius’ main island and home to about 300 people, is seeing the construction of two large jetties and a runway that is more than 3km (1.84 miles) long. “It’s an intelligence facility for India to stage air and naval presence in order to increase surveillance in the wider southwest Indian Ocean and Mozambique channel,” Abhishek Mishra, associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) think-tank in New Delhi told Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera

Somalia, Kenya Agree to Mend Strained Relations
The governments of Somalia and Kenya agreed to improve strained diplomatic ties following a meeting in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, between officials of both countries on Sunday. The Kenyan delegation led by Foreign Affairs Minister Raychelle Omamo held talks with Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble. According to a press statement from the prime minister’s office, the neighboring states, whose ties have not been on a strong footing for several months, agreed to cement their relations particularly in the areas of diplomacy, trade and security. The statement further added that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta extended an invitation for Somalia’s prime minister to visit Nairobi. Somalia has underscored that an existing maritime dispute between both nations will be decided by The Hague-based International Court of Justice, or ICJ, despite several requests by Kenya to reach a settlement out of court. Mogadishu severed diplomatic ties with Nairobi in December of last year over claims of Kenyan political interference in Somalia’s affairs, an accusation denied by Nairobi. VOA

Somalia: Call for Urgent Action Following ‘Alarming’ 80 per Cent Rise in Sexual Violence
An “alarming” 80 per cent increase in sexual violence in Somalia, as documented in two recent reports by the Secretary-General, has been described as “appalling” by two UN Special Representatives. … The report linked sexual violence to the prevailing conditions of insecurity in Somalia. This was marked by political tensions in the run-up to national elections, inter-communal clashes related to land-based disputes, and a surge in extremist militant group Al-Shabaab’s activities, which intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the temporary suspension of security and judicial services, the pandemic also disrupted access to education and services for survivors. Cases of sexual violence ​​attributed to Al-Shabaab have doubled, the report found, describing how the Islamist militant group continues to use sexual violence and forced marriage to dominate areas under their de facto control. Violations carried out by clan militias have also almost tripled over the past year. These have been linked to a proliferation of small arms and light weapons. In the vast majority of cases, the culprits remain unidentified, which perpetuates the cycle of impunity. The two senior UN experts also expressed serious concern that over 15 per cent of all cases of sexual violence verified were attributed to the Government security forces. Both the Somali National Army and the Somali Police Force, as well as regional forces, committed acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and children. UN News

Kenya Top in Africa as Curtains Fall on Tokyo Olympics
Kenya featured prominently Sunday as curtains were drawn on the 32nd Olympic Games, with Tokyo organisers overcoming huge challenges, most significantly rising coronavirus cases and growing opposition to the staging of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle. There were pockets of muted anti-Olympics demonstrations outside the Tokyo National Stadium, the centerpiece host of the two-week $15.4 billion (about Sh1.6 trillion) extravaganza that ended with the US topping the table with a total of 113 medals – 39 gold, 41 silver and 33 bronze. It was followed by China with 88 medals (38-32-18) and hosts Japan at third place with 58 medals (27-14-17). Kenya was the best African nation and 19th overall, with 10 medals – four gold, four silver and two bronze – all panned from athletics. Emmanuel Korir (800 metres), Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon (1,500m) alongside marathon runners Peres Jepchirchir and Eliud Kipchoge mined gold, with Hellen Obiri (5,000m), Ferguson Rotich (800m), Timothy Cheruiyot (1,500m) and Brigid Kosgei securing silver. The EastAfrican



Photo: Adam Jones