Africa Media Review for December 14, 2020

More Than 300 Boys Missing after Gunmen Raid School in Northwest Nigeria
More than 300 boys remain missing after gunmen raided a secondary school in northwest Nigeria, sparking fears of another mass kidnapping in Africa’s most populous country. Hundreds of children fled into the woods after attackers on motorbikes stormed the boarding school Friday night in Katsina state, which has been plagued by bandits abducting people for ransom. Nigerian security forces searched for them all weekend, officials said, as parents took to the streets in protest, urging the government to find and protect their boys. “So far we are yet to account for 333 pupils,” the state’s governor, Aminu Masari, told reporters Sunday. … The attack was reminiscent of the raids by Boko Haram, the extremist group that typically operates hundreds of miles away in the northeast. For Katsina, this level of violence is new. The school is located near an area where violent gangs are known to operate. Those assailants — officials call them bandits — have never before pulled off such a huge abduction. The Washington Post

Shadowy Ethiopian Massacre Could Be ‘Tip of the Iceberg’
The only thing the survivors can agree on is that hundreds of people were slaughtered in a single Ethiopian town. Witnesses say security forces and their allies attacked civilians in Mai-Kadra with machetes and knives or strangled them with ropes. … What happened beginning Nov. 9 in the agricultural town near the Sudanese border has become the most visible atrocity in a war largely conducted in the shadows. But even here, much remains unclear, including who killed whom. … The conflicting accounts are emblematic of a war about which little is truly known since Ethiopian forces entered Tigray on Nov. 4 and sealed off the region from the world, restricting access to journalists and aid workers alike. … Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray one have filled the vacuum with propaganda. Each side has seized on the killings in Mai-Kadra to support its cause. AP

In Addis Ababa, Sudan PM Announces IGAD Summit on Tigray Crisis
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok says he has agreed with Ethiopian counterpart, Abiy Ahmed, to hold an urgent meeting of a bloc of East African countries to resolve the crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. There was no immediate comment by Ethiopia’s government on Hamdok’s announcement on Sunday of an “emergency” meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Hamdok travelled to Addis Ababa amid a growing refugee crisis that has seen some 50,000 Ethiopians flee conflict in the northern Tigray region into neighbouring Sudan. He is the first foreign leader to visit the Ethiopian capital since fighting broke out in Tigray on November 4, creating a humanitarian crisis and killing thousands of people. … On Saturday, the first international aid convoy carrying medicines and relief supplies arrived in Mekelle, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said, but more is still needed. Al Jazeera

US Embassy Says Sudan No Longer on List of Terror Sponsors
The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum said Monday that President Donald Trump’s administration has removed Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that could help the African country get international loans to revive its battered economy and end its pariah status. … The designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants. Sudan was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. … Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, hailed the move as “historic decision” by Trump’s administration. He tweeted Monday that delisting Sudan would “contribute to supporting the democratic transition.” Sudan is on a fragile transition to democracy following an uprising that led to the military’s ouster of former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. AP

At Least 27 Killed in Jihadist Attack in Southeast Niger
Jihadists from the Boko Haram group killed at least 27 people in an attack of “unprecedented savagery” in southeast Niger, local officials said on Sunday. Other people were wounded and some more reported missing in the assault on Saturday evening in the village of Toumour in the Diffa region, said a senior local official. Witnesses and other officials confirmed the attack, which came hours before municipal and regional elections went ahead across the country on Sunday. “Some victims were killed or wounded by bullets, others were burnt inside their houses, consumed by the flames of an enormous fire set by the attackers,” said the official. Between 800 and 1,000 houses, the central market and numerous vehicles were also destroyed in the fire, he added. Roughly 70 attackers arrived at Toumour at around 1745 GMT on foot, having swum across Lake Chad, said the official. The attack itself lasted three hours. AFP

21 Killed as Nigerian Soldiers Repel Boko Haram Attack in Borno – Official
The Nigerian Army said its troops of Operation Lafiya Dole on Saturday killed more than 20 Boko Haram terrorists and captured equipment when the terrorists attempted to attack Askira Uba in Borno. The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 7 Division Maiduguri, Ado Isa, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday. Mr Isa said the terrorists, who mounted on 15 gun-trucks suspected to have come from Sambisa Forest, approached the town from different directions simultaneously. He said the troops responded and engaged the criminals with superior fire power, with the terrorists suffering huge losses both in men, materials and equipment. “Specifically, the troops captured four gun trucks from the criminals while some additional gun trucks were also destroyed by the Air Task Force that responded swiftly. Premium Times

Landmine Casualty Rates in Nigeria Now Fifth Highest in the World
More than 100 people were killed or injured by landmines across north-east Nigeria in the first three months of this year, according to a new report. Mines laid during the conflict between Boko Haram, other armed groups and the Nigerian army left 408 people dead and 644 injured between January 2016 and August this year, says the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a landmine clearance charity. Since March 2018, the country has recorded an average of five landmine casualties a week. Actual numbers are thought to be higher due to underreporting. The first 15 weeks of this year saw one casualty a day. Landmine casualty rates in Nigeria are now the fifth highest in the world. Most of the casualties occurred in Borno state, where the impact of Boko Haram’s 11-year jihadist insurgency has been most acutely felt. Locally manufactured landmines, unexploded bombs and improvised explosive devices are now scattered across the largely rural north-east. The Guardian

As War Goes on in Ethiopia, Ethnic Harassment Is on the Rise
Tigrayans belong to one of about eight major ethnic groups in Ethiopia, and for nearly three decades, they were the dominant force in the country’s politics. But life for many Tigrayans began to change in early November after Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, launched a military operation in the northern region of Tigray, whose leaders have resisted Mr. Abiy’s drive to centralize power in the federal government. Nearly 50,000 Tigrayans have fled the country, in what the United Nations has called the worst exodus of refugees Ethiopia has seen in more than two decades. Since then, many ethnic Tigrayans who live in the capital and other parts of Ethiopia say they have been treated like criminal suspects and subjected to various forms of discrimination, harassment and abuse by government officials. They report being detained without charges, put under house arrest, and barred from traveling outside the country. Tigrayans say they have had their businesses shut down, homes ransacked and money extorted by security officials. The New York Times

Mozambique Al-Shabaab Gunmen Push Masses to Pemba
The population has soared in Pemba, a northern Mozambique port known for its wide bay, but rather than tourists coming for a swim, the newcomers have fled Islamic extremists. In the past few months, boatloads of people with little but the clothes they wear have landed under the palm trees after their homes fell prey to Al-Shabaab gunmen swearing allegiance to the Islamic State group (IS). In October, the violent rebellion entered its fourth year and has reportedly killed more than 2,400 people and displaced half a million, according to the government. … After seizing coastal zones that host natural gas installations, Islamist fighters have begun to push to the inland districts of Cabo Delgado province. The last official census put Pemba’s population at more than 205,000, while more than 130,000 displaced people are estimated to have arrived. Local authorities are now struggling to provide basic social services, Mayor Florete Simba told AFP. He deplored “pressure on water, health centres, sanitation and mobility and territorial planning.” AFP

Polisario Vows to Keep up Western Sahara Fight
The Polisario Front vowed Friday to press on with its fight for Western Sahara, a day after President Donald Trump announced the US would back Moroccan rule over the area. “Fighting will continue until the total withdrawal of the Moroccan occupation troops,” said Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, foreign minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which the Polisario proclaimed in 1976. Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco’s control, where tensions with the pro-independence Polisario have simmered since the 1970s. The Algerian-backed movement holds a fifth of Western Sahara and has campaigned for a vote on self-determination through decades of war and deadlock. … A decades-old ceasefire collapsed in mid-November after Morocco said it had sent troops into no man’s land there to reopen a road to neighbouring Mauritania. The Polisario has since claimed that daily exchanges of fire have taken place along the sand barrier that separates the two sides. AFP

Eswatini Leader Dies of Virus Amid New Wave in South Africa
Eswatini prime minister Ambrose Dlamini, who had tested positive for COVID-19, has died, the government has announced. The 52-year-old Dlamini, who had been prime minister since 2018, announced in November that he had tested positive for the virus and was being treated at a hospital in neighboring South Africa. The government of Eswatini, the country formerly known as Swaziland, announced Dlamini’s death on Twitter. Eswatini, a small mountain kingdom northeast of South Africa, has recorded almost 7,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 127 deaths. South Africa is experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19 and President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to address the nation Monday evening on the country’s response to the new wave of the disease. South Africa recorded 7,999 new infections and 170 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing its total number of cases to 860,964. AP

After Battling Virus, Algerian Leader Suddenly Reappears
Still recovering from COVID-19, Algeria’s president suddenly reappeared Sunday after nearly two months out of the public eye, saying in a video message that it may still be several more weeks before he is fit enough to return to his North African country. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune fell ill and then left for treatment in Germany in late October. Before his 4-minute, 54-second video on Sunday, his last public appearance had been in mid-October, meeting France’s foreign minister when he visited the former French colony. The 75-year-old Tebboune spoke clearly in the video and did not appear short of breath even after long phrases. He has, however, clearly lost weight. … The long absence of the head of state, who also serves Algeria’s defense chief, recalled the lengthy disappearances from public view of his predecessor, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, for treatment in France of a stroke in 2013 and later in Switzerland for numerous medical check-ups, with lots of speculation and little information on his whereabouts or health. AP

How China’s Coal Plans Threaten African Countries’ Fight for a Renewable Future
When the Ghanaian government agreed to coordinate with Shenzen Energy Group, a Chinese energy company, to build a 7,000-megawatt coal power plant in the country’s Ekumfi district, Chibeze Ezekiel was concerned. He knew the proposed plant’s wastewater, ash pit and mercury emissions posed serious health and environmental risks to the local fishing and farming communities. Access to clean drinking water was under threat from the plant’s sulfur dioxide emissions and associated acid rain, and there would have been a clear impact on the regional climate. Ezekiel, who is from the capital, Accra, was already the founder of an NGO focused on good environmental governance and started what became a successful grassroots youth movement to stop the construction of the $1.5 billion plant, which included a shipping port to bring in coal. … The Ghanaian government canceled the project in 2016. … Ezekiel was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa on November 30, which honors the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists. CNN



Photo: Adam Jones