Africa Media Review for December 16, 2020

Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Target Nigeria’s Highways (Infographic)

A rise in highway ambushes by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa pose a growing threat of isolation for Borno State’s 4 million residents. Violent events linked to Boko Haram and its offshoot the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) on Borno State’s main roadways have spiked almost sixfold (to 67 episodes) in the past year. Reported fatalities linked to highway attacks rose more than fourfold during this time (to 259 deaths). Violent incidents during these highway attacks include robbery, abduction, burning vehicles, and summary execution. Reports suggest that 90 percent of the militants’ abductions in 2020 came from such highway events. Robberies also provide a significant source of revenue and military supplies for the militants. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Suspected Chinese Hackers Stole Camera Footage from African Union – Memo

As diplomats gathered at the African Union’s headquarters earlier this year to prepare for its annual leaders’ summit, employees of the international organization made a disturbing discovery. Someone was stealing footage from their own security cameras. Acting on a tip from Japanese cyber researchers, the African Union’s (AU) technology staffers discovered that a group of suspected Chinese hackers had rigged a cluster of servers in the basement of an administrative annex to quietly siphon surveillance videos from across the AU’s sprawling campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. The security breach was carried out by a Chinese hacking group nicknamed “Bronze President,” according to a five-page internal memo reviewed by Reuters. … “We cannot estimate the quantity and value of the data which have been stolen,” the memo continued, adding that while AU technicians had managed to interrupt the flow of data, the hackers could easily regain the upper hand. Reuters

Facebook Says Russian Disinformation Campaign Targeted Africa and Middle East

Three disinformation campaigns spanning hundreds of Facebook pages with millions of followers targeted Africa and the Middle East, according to a series of reports released Tuesday by Facebook, the social media analysis firm Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory. The reports tied two of the campaigns to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch nicknamed “Putin’s chef” for his close ties to Russia President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin was sanctioned by the U.S. government after Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which he financed, tried to meddle in the 2016 and 2018 elections. … While Prigozhin’s influence operations targeted at Americans appear to be struggling, the recently removed campaigns focused on Africa and the Middle East had far more reach. They appear to have mixed goals of promoting the Russian government’s interests and Prigozhin’s own interests, said Shelby Grossman, who led the Stanford report. NBC News

Kenya, Somaliland Agree on Direct KQ Flights, Consulate as Ties Deepen

Kenya on Tuesday reached a deal for direct Kenya Airways flights to Hargeisa in Somaliland, in what could be the first destination for the national carrier into a Somali region, following years of trying. The move came hours after Somalia, which sees Somaliland as its territory, severed ties with Kenya in protest against what it called constant interference with its internal affairs. … Nairobi also agreed to set up a consulate in Hargeisa by the first quarter of 2021, joining Ethiopia and Djibouti, which have diplomatic outposts in the Somaliland capital. … Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 and is routinely treated as separate from that country but Somalia has never recognised it. Across the world, only Taiwan, which is also seen by China as its territory, has recognised Somaliland. … It was unclear by Tuesday morning what will happen to military cooperation between Somalia and Kenya, which has sent troops to Somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). Legally, it is Amisom to make a decision about troop movements, but in consultation with the UN and troop contributing countries. The EastAfrican

UN: Libya’s Rivals Fail to Agree on How to Name Government

Libya’s rivals failed to agree on a mechanism to choose a transitional government that would lead the conflict-stricken country to elections in December next year, the United Nations said on Tuesday. U.N. acting envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams told an online meeting for the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum that she would form an advisory committee to help bridge the gaps among the participants and “make concrete progress.” The 75-member forum reached an agreement to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24, 2021. However, it failed to break the deadlock on the selection mechanism for the executive authority despite six online meetings since their face-to-face talks in Tunisia in November, Williams said. … Williams said she would announce the legal committee to work on constitutional arrangements for the elections. The committee is expected to convene Monday, before its face-to-face meeting next month, she said. AP

Divided on Politics, Libya Rivals Find Economic Middle Ground

Libya’s political rivals deadlocked on a formula for selecting leadership to unify the country, but reached rare common ground on starting work on repairing the economy. … More positive news emerged from the economic talks that grouped representatives of the European Union, Egypt, the U.S. and the World Bank, as well as key Libyan institutions such as the National Oil Corp. and the Finance Ministry. The key outcome was a decision to convene, for the first time in five years, a unified board meeting of the central bank on Wednesday. The parallel institutions that have been set up in the capital, Tripoli, and the eastern city of Tobruk include two central banks, and the meeting is expected to address formulating a single exchange rate. Libya is grappling with two official rates and the black-market rate in a balancing act that affects everything from the national budget to the vital oil sector. Bloomberg

U.N. Security Council Approves New U.N. Envoys to Mediate Libya, Mideast

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday approved a proposal by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint Bulgarian Nickolay Mladenov as the U.N. Libya special envoy and Norwegian Tor Wennesland as the U.N. Middle East envoy, diplomats said. Mladenov will replace Ghassan Salame, who stepped down as the U.N. Libya envoy in March due to stress, and Wennesland succeeds Mladenov, who has spent the past five years as the U.N. mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. Reuters

Keep Focus on South Sudan, UN Mission Chief Tells Security Council

Briefing a virtual meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday, UNMISS chief David Shearer highlighted achievements over the past year, including the successful formation of a transitional government in line with a 2018 peace agreement. However, he reported that progress on unifying the security forces has stalled, and many other benchmarks are behind schedule. Additionally, even though nine out of 10 state governors are now in place, dispute over the remaining official is being used to halt appointment of local commissioners, which could contribute to inter-communal violence. “Momentum in South Sudan’s peace process is linked to the strength of international engagement. However, attention by Member States in the Horn is understandably directed elsewhere, contributing to the sense of drift that people are frequently remarking upon. Nevertheless, collectively, we still need to remain focused on South Sudan and guide the peace implementation,” he said. UN News

Millions of Children in Tigray Out of Aid Reach, Warns UNICEF
The United Nations has warned that millions of children in Ethiopia’s Tigray region remain out of reach, despite an agreement made earlier this month to channel desperately needed humanitarian aid to the northern region where a month of war has killed, wounded and uprooted a large number of people. “Some 2.3 million children in Tigray, Ethiopia, remain cut off from humanitarian assistance amid continuing violence since the beginning of November,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are extremely concerned that the longer access to them is delayed, the worse their situation will become as supplies of food, including ready-to-use therapeutic food for the treatment of child malnutrition, medicines, water, fuel and other essentials run low,” Fore said. “Protecting these children, many of whom are refugees and internally displaced, and providing them with humanitarian aid must be a priority,” she added. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia: EU Suspends Budget Support over Tigray Conflict

Brussels is withholding nearly 90 million euros ($109 million) in budget support payments to Ethiopia because of the conflict in the northern Tigray region. The decision is intended to highlight the EU’s wish for a cessation of hostilities and “resolution through political means,” and its concerns about restrictions on humanitarian and media access, according to an internal document seen by AFP. The EU has called for a “follow-up on allegations of human rights abuse” during the conflict, which began in early November. DW

Guinea’s President Alpha Conde Sworn into 3rd Term

Guinea President Alpha Conde was sworn into office Tuesday for a third term after a violently contested election. … Conakry, Guinea’s capital, was secured for the inauguration by the police and the gendarmerie. … The Guinean opposition, which says nearly 100 people have died in election-related violence, shunned the ceremony. “The city is completely militarized by government to validate its constitutional coup. This is the image that will stand out internationally,” said opposition leader Ibrahima Diallo who fought for months against Conde’s third term in office. Guinea’s electoral commission declared that Conde had easily won a third term with 59% of the vote, though opposition candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo maintains he won the election. AP

Regional Bloc to Meet in January over Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Situation

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has scheduled for January a heads of state summit to analyse the situation in Cabo Delgado. The decision was made Monday in Mozambique’s capital Maputo after a meeting involving Presidents Filipe Nyusi (Mozambique), Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana), Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe) and Tanzania deputy President Samia Suluhu. The Monday meeting “reaffirmed the need of the holding of a SADC in-person extraordinary summit to address the security situation in Mozambique as well as the business forum in March,” Verónica Macamo, Mozambique’s Foreign Affairs and Cooperation minister, announced. In August, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi took over from his Tanzania counterpart, John Magufuli, as the chairpersonship of the regional bloc SADC. The EastAfrican

Top Official of South Africa’s Ruling ANC Urged to Step Down

The secretary-general of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, may be forced to step down after the party’s integrity commission recommended that he be suspended because he has been charged with corruption. Magashule was charged in court with 21 counts of fraud and corruption earlier this month. He is accused of involvement in looting nearly $13.8 million from government development projects when he was premier of South Africa’s Free State province from 2009 to 2018. … Magashule is expected to appear in court next year to face the charges. Magashule, who is considered a political rival of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa in the party’s leadership, told the commission when he met with them last weekend that he will step down if the party’s highest decision-making committee instructs him to do so. The recommendation for him to step down may have far-reaching implications for other ANC leaders who have been charged with corruption. The party has been criticized for not enforcing its policy of having leaders step down while they face criminal charges, including corruption. AP

A Pandemic Atlas: South Africa Acts Quickly, Dodges Disaster

COVID-19 arrived in South Africa in early March, when 10 people who had been visiting Northern Italy returned home. One of them — a 38-year-old man — brought the virus back with him. The news set off alarms. Experts warned of a health catastrophe because so many of the country’s 60 million people live in overcrowded urban areas. But the country had a secret weapon: Health professionals who are veterans of the country’s longstanding battles against HIV/AIDS and drug-resistant TB. South Africa’s leaders heeded their advice on how to deal with the virus and, though there have been ups and downs, the worst-case scenarios have not yet come to pass.South Africa swiftly imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns on March 27, the day it recorded its first COVID-19 death. Factories and businesses were shut, as was all commerce except grocery stores and pharmacies. Borders were closed. Sales of liquor and cigarettes were banned. Everyone was ordered to stay at home. The lockdown was designed to buy time. … AP

South Africa Announces Restrictions for Second Coronavirus Wave

President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke of the latest wave late Monday, with these sobering words: “There can no longer be any doubt that South Africa has entered a second wave of coronavirus infections, which we’ve been talking about,” he said. “Given the rate at which new cases have grown over the last two weeks, there is every possibility that if we do not act urgently and if we do not act together, the second wave will be more severe than the first wave.” To that end, he said that public beaches would be closed, and that alcohol sales would again be limited to Monday to Thursday. … And, he noted, epidemiologists have noticed a worrying trend: more young people between the ages of 15 and 19 are becoming infected. A recent youth festival in the coastal city of Durban sparked about 1,000 new infections, most among teens. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize recently warned that the second wave could eclipse the first. At the peak in July, the nation reported nearly 14,000 new cases per day. VOA

A Pandemic Atlas: Kenya’s Youth Suffer Collateral Damage

The accepted wisdom was that young people had less to fear from COVID-19. But in Kenya, youth suffered from the pandemic in other ways. Children have been forced into hard labor and prostitution. Schools are largely closed until 2021. Babies have been born in desperate conditions. Until recently, Kenya had hardly been mentioned among the ranks of countries suffering in the pandemic, with infection numbers far below countries in Europe or Latin America or even elsewhere in Africa. Only now is the East African nation facing a surge that has drawn continental concern — four doctors recently died in a single day. By mid-December, the country reported 178 cases per 100,000 population. For months, the daily restrictions inspired by COVID-19 were the more immediate danger, as millions of informal workers lost the ability to go out every day to make money to feed their families. At times, a curfew was harshly enforced. … AP

Senegal’s Dakar Fashion Week: The Catwalk in a Baobab Forest

Organisers of this year’s Dakar Fashion Week have a message for the world: sustainability is in style. Forced by coronavirus restrictions to hold the show outside, models emerged beside the trunk of an ancient baobab tree to stride down the catwalk. The event, held at the weekend in Senegal’s capital with the theme of environmental responsibility, featured 20 designers whose collections – both those on the runway and sold in boutiques – have long been handmade on the continent rather than mass produced in factories. “A lot of the designers had already been doing ‘slow fashion’ but they didn’t know it,” said Adama Ndiaye, founder of Dakar Fashion Week and the designer behind Adama Paris. “It’s made here and it’s not made in huge quantities. We were so ashamed of that for years but now we are proud of it. This is luxury.” BBC



Photo: Adam Jones