Africa Media Review for December 21, 2021

African Migration Trends to Watch in 2022
[Infographic] The push-pull forces driving African migration continue to intensify, portending expanding African migration within and off the continent in 2022. The number of documented migrants within and from the African region has nearly doubled since 2010, continuing a two-decade trend of expansion. The primary push factors are conflict, repressive governance, and limited economic opportunities. Nine of the top 15 African countries of origin for migrants are in conflict. Most African migration remains on the continent, continuing a long-established pattern. Urban areas in Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt are the main destinations for this inter-African migration, reflecting the relative economic dynamism of these locales. … While migrants are not themselves a security threat, locking them up in detention or denying them assistance and the ability to return home or continue their journeys is empowering unscrupulous actors who see an opportunity to exploit them. Violent extremist groups and criminal networks also continue to benefit financially by controlling migrant smuggling and trafficking routes. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Tigrayan Rebels Offer Ceasefire, as Retreat Leaves Trail of Abuse
Tigrayan rebel forces have called for an immediate ceasefire after withdrawing from towns across the Amhara and Afar regions amid a government offensive that has dramatically shifted the balance of Ethiopia’s devastating 13-month conflict. In a letter sent yesterday to the UN secretary-general, Tigray’s president Debretsion Gebremichael said he has ordered troops to return to the northern region, where a federal blockade has left hundreds of thousands of people facing famine. “We propose an immediate cessation of hostilities followed by negotiations,” Debretsion said in the letter, adding that he hoped the retreat would be “a decisive opening for peace.” … Until just a few weeks ago, all the momentum had appeared to be with the TDF, which came close to reaching Addis Ababa. The months-long rebel push had seen more than half a million people displaced in Amhara, and over 250,000 uprooted in neighbouring Afar. The rebels have been accused of a string of abuses during their operations. “They didn’t differentiate between farmers or trained fighters; they simply massacred,” said Seid Hassen, a resident of Teraf village in Amhara. … Amhara forces have, meanwhile, been accused of a new wave of detentions, killings, and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans in the disputed area of western Tigray. The New Humanitarian

Foreign Drones Tip the Balance in Ethiopia’s Civil War
Over the past four months, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Iran have quietly supplied Mr. Abiy with some of the latest armed drones, even as the United States and African governments were urging a cease-fire and peace talks, according to two Western diplomats who have been briefed on the crisis and spoke on condition of anonymity. … Mr. Abiy built his drone arsenal by tapping the sympathy of foreign autocrats and a booming segment of the global arms trade. … Nearly every day, cargo flights arrived from a military base in the United Arab Emirates, one of Mr. Abiy’s closest allies. The Emiratis had trained Mr. Abiy’s Republican Guard and provided crucial military support at the start of the war, running drone strikes that took out Tigrayan artillery and weapons depots, a Western official and a former Ethiopian official said. … Since August a number of cargo flights have arrived in Ethiopia operated by Iranian airlines that the U.S. has accused of being fronts for the Quds Force, the expeditionary wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Flight-tracking blogs have made note of the shipments as well. … Mr. Singer, the drone expert, said the experimentation with drone warfare in Ethiopia and Libya has parallels with the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, when outside powers used the fight to test new military technologies and to gauge international reaction to determine what they could get away with. “It’s a combination of war and battle lab,” he said. The New York Times

Leading Activist in Egypt’s 2011 Uprising and Two Others Jailed
A leading figure in Egypt’s 2011 uprising, his lawyer and a blogger have been served lengthy prison sentences in a Cairo court, in a move that observers have branded a further blow to human rights. An emergency court on Monday sentenced activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah to five years in prison on charges of “spreading false news.” Human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, formerly Abd El-Fattah’s counsel, and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim were both sentenced to four years in detention on the same charges. … The trial represents the latest in a prolonged string of attacks on Egyptian civil society and human rights, often with particular aim at figures like Abd El-Fattah associated with the protests that overthrew former autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. … In a rare statement, the German foreign ministry said the trial against El-Baqer shows “where the human rights situation in Egypt is heading.” The three defendants, Human Rights Watch added, were part of a group of civil society figures abruptly summoned to trial shortly before Egypt ended a national state of emergency in late October, in place for most of the past 40 years. Observers had hoped that the lifting of the emergency law could provide a small step towards mitigating draconian laws governing protest, free expression and civil society imposed since President Sisi swept to power in a 2013 military coup. Yet the emergency law has been largely replaced by a sweeping anti-terrorism legislation used primarily to target peaceful dissidents. The Guardian

One Killed in Sudan Protests, 125 Wounded – Reports
Security forces fired tear gas canisters, and live rounds into the air, as hundreds of thousands marched, three years since the start of mass demonstrations that led to the ouster of veteran strongman Omar al-Bashir. On Monday, the independent Doctors’ Committee said 28-year-old Majzoub Mohammad Ahmad was shot and killed with “a bullet in the chest.” Nationwide, at least 46 people have been killed and scores wounded in the past two months, according to the Committee. The health ministry said late Sunday that “123 people were injured in Khartoum and two in Kassala”, a city in the east of Sudan. … Many of the injuries were from inhalation of acrid tear gas, including during clashes between the police and protesters near the presidential palace. Demonstrators there had chanted slogans against military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led a coup on October 25. … Security forces on Monday maintained a barricade of bridges across the Nile River linking Khartoum with the cities of Omdurman and North Khartoum. The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) — an umbrella group which spearheaded the protests against Bashir — have urged people to continue to reject military power, calling for more demonstrations on December 25 and 30. RFI with AFP

Libya Candidates Ask Commission to Reveal Reasons for Election Delay
A group of candidates in war-torn Libya’s presidential election said Monday that they expect the polls to be delayed, despite the lack of an official announcement to that effect. Scheduled for Friday, the vote is meant to cap a United Nations-led peace process after a decade of conflict. But it has been beset by deep divisions over its legal basis, who may stand and court challenges against prominent candidates. On Monday, 17 hopefuls issued a joint statement in which they implicitly acknowledged that a delay was inevitable. The group urged the electoral commission to “reveal the reasons why there will be no election on the date set” and called on it to “publish a final list of candidates.” Multiple observers have predicted a delay, but just days ahead of the vote, there has been no official announcement. … Libya, torn apart by a decade of conflict since its 2011 revolution, has seen a year of relative calm since a landmark October 2020 ceasefire, and the UN has been pushing for elections as part of a multi-pronged peace effort. But presidential bids by several divisive figures, a controversial electoral law and lack of agreement over the powers of the next government have posed a series of obstacles. … Meanwhile, in a country controlled by dozens of armed groups including thousands of foreign fighters, analysts warn that the ceasefire is increasingly fragile. AfricaNews with AFP

France Kills IS Militant Linked to Niger Giraffe Park Attack
The French army says it has “neutralized” a regional Islamic State group leader wanted in connection with the killing of seven aid workers, mostly French citizens, and a leading guide in a Niger giraffe park in August 2020. France’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that, in cooperation with Nigerien authorities, operatives from France’s anti-insurgent force Operation Barkhane struck Soumana Boura, an Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) leader, in a fatal airstrike. The force located him in a ISGS sanctuary north of the town of Tillaberi, identifying his body following the operation. France claims Boura was among the perpetrators of the attack that occurred Aug. 9, 2020, in Kouré Park, Niger. The victims had been on a day of sightseeing Sunday when they were attacked just before noon, according to one of the aid groups they worked for, Paris-based NGO ACTED. An ambulance sent by the French military stationed in Niger found the bodies later in the day in their burned-out vehicle in the giraffe reserve, the group said. AP

Kenya COVID Infection Rate Increases to All-Time High
Kenya’s coronavirus infections rate on Monday hit the highest level since the country recorded the first case of Covid-19 case in March last year… Data from the Ministry of Health shows that the positivity rate — the proportion of positive tests — rose to 29.6 percent on Monday from 24.4 percent on Sunday and 6.5 percent on December 13 amid the spread of the infectious Omicron variant. The surge in global coronavirus infections has seen many countries tighten restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. … “So far, there is no evidence that Omicron is more dangerous than the other variants and so the government should just scale up the vaccinations and adherence to the health protocols,” Githinji Gitahi, the CEO of Amref Health Africa International, said yesterday. “Hospitalizations and deaths are still low but the healthcare should be ready in case of any eventuality.” … Kenya had by Monday fully vaccinated 3.59 million people and partially inoculated 5.31 million as the nation lags in its fight against the disease. The EastAfrican

Mozambique Says Troops Killed 10 Rebels
Mozambican soldiers backed by regional forces stormed a rebel base and shot dead 10 insurgents in the country’s deeply troubled north, the defense minister said. The incident, which took place Sunday, follows several attacks in the last two weeks by jihadists in villages in the Macomia district of the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province. … But since July, more than 3,100 African, European and US soldiers have been deployed to the northern province to quell the unrest. “Yesterday, our forces and (southern African regional troops) attacked a terrorist base in Macomia and shot down 10 terrorists,” Defense Minister Cristovao Chume said late Monday. “The situation is worrying,” he said. “Our forces are on the ground. And in the coming weeks we will have positive results.” President Filipe Nyusi said last week his country had witnessed fewer jihadist attacks this year than last, after Rwanda and neighboring countries helped tackle the four-year insurgency. “We were able to reduce terrorist attacks by three times,” he said. While in 2020 the country registered just over 160 attacks, that number was reduced to 52 in 2021, he said. The Defense Post with AFP

Protests in East Congo over Fears of Rwandan Police; 4 Dead
Residents of eastern Congo’s largest city launched violent protests Monday amid fears that police from neighboring Rwanda had entered the country, leaving at least four people dead, authorities said. Gunfire rang out across Goma, a city of 2 million near the Rwandan border, and demonstrators later put up barricades in several areas. Three police officers and one protester died amid the unrest, according to Gen. Sylvain Ekenge, spokesman for the military governor of North Kivu province. Seventeen other people were seriously injured, he said. Congo’s relations with Rwanda have been fraught over the past 30 years, with Rwanda accusing Congo of giving shelter to ethnic Hutus responsible for carrying out the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rwanda was later among the neighboring countries that invaded Congo during its back-to-back civil wars, and in the years since the two countries have accused each other of supporting opposing armed militias. The latest anti-Rwandan sentiment in eastern Congo was sparked by a memorandum of bilateral cooperation signed a week ago, which authorities say is aimed at combating cross-border crime. … The commissioner general of the Congolese national police told reporters over the weekend there are no Rwandan police officers inside Congo, and authorities maintained Monday there were no such plans in motion. AP

Hotel Rwanda Hero to Terrorist ‘Show Trial’: Paul Rusesabagina’s Daughters on the Fight for His Freedom
The children of Paul Rusesabagina, the imprisoned Rwandan opposition figure, are only able to speak to their father for five minutes once a week. Even then the Rwandan authorities listen into the phone call. Tricked into boarding a private plane in Dubai and flown to Kigali, the 67-year-old Rusesabagina – who came to international attention after his life-saving acts were depicted in the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, set during the country’s genocide in 1994 – was given what his family says was a show trial and jailed over allegations that he had been a founder and leader of a terrorist group. During that trial, the phone of his daughter, Carine Kanimba, was targeted with the notorious Pegasus spyware, according to forensic analysis by Amnesty. Legal discussions and conversations were reportedly listened into, as well as meetings with senior foreign diplomats. The Rwandan government has previously said the country “does not use this software system … and does not possess this technical capability in any form.” In the midst of their international campaign to secure his release, Carine, and one of his other daughters, Anaise Kanimba, say that even now the regime of the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, is still interested in their activities. The Guardian

Eswatini Youth: ‘Nothing to Lose’
What started as a protest to demand justice for Thabani Nkomonye, a university law student who was allegedly killed by the police in Eswatini, has grown into a series of demonstrations demanding the fall of King Mswati. Swaziland News reported that Nkomonye’s body was found dumped at Nhlambeni, a few kilometres from Manzini. The police had earlier reported him missing but a family member spotted his car hidden at the Matsapha police station and alerted journalists. Subsequent to a series of protests by the youth, particularly university students, pro-democracy members of parliament Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza, Mthandeni Dube and Mduduzi Magawugawu Simelane raised the issue in the legislature. They demanded democratic reforms, saying the challenges facing the country were political and a result of poor leadership. But King Mswati responded by unleashing soldiers and the police on protesting civilians, and further ordered the arrest of the pro-democracy MPs, adding fuel to the protests which evolved into political unrest. … The protests in the kingdom were triggered by a generation of youth who were neglected by Mswati’s government, said Wandile Dludlu, the secretary general of the People’s United Democratic Movement. “This has slowly but surely built over the last two decades to breed the largest ‘I have nothing to lose’ generation of youth who truly feel neglected, rejected and totally absent in the entire economic, social and political life of the monarchial funfair and dinner table,” Dludlu said. Mail & Guardian