Africa Media Review for December 23, 2021

Tunisia’s Former President Marzouki Sentenced to Jail in Absentia
A Tunisian court has sentenced former president Moncef Marzouki to four years in jail on charges of conspiring against state security, the TAP state news agency said Wednesday. Marzouki, who resides in Paris and was tried in absentia, criticised Tunisia’s President Kais Saied earlier this year, saying he staged a coup. He also called on France to end support for the current administration. Saied suspended parliament and dismissed the government in July, before later appointing a government and announcing a plan for a referendum and elections next year. … However, foreign donors have urged Saied to restore normal constitutional order and say democracy and freedom of speech are important to their relationship with the North African country. After Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, which introduced democracy, an elected assembly appointed Marzouki as the interim president, overseeing the transition to a new constitution in 2014. A human rights activist, Marzouki was defeated in a presidential runoff that year by Beji Caid Essebsi, who took over as Tunisia’s first democratically-elected president. France24 with Reuters

Libya Electoral Board Suggests January 24 for Polls
Libya’s electoral board has suggested that this week’s presidential election should be postponed by a month to January 24. The statement by the High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) on Wednesday came after a parliamentary committee tasked with overseeing the electoral process said it was “impossible” to hold the first round of presidential polls on Friday, as originally scheduled. … The spokesman for the French government, Gabriel Attal, said France remained “committed to the smooth running of the electoral process until its end.” Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock declared the ballot of “crucial importance” and vowed to work in tight collaboration with the UN to ensure it takes place. “If elections are postponed without any kind of path forward, then anxieties will be high,” warned Amanda Kadlec, a former member of the UN panel of experts on Libya. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia’s Warring Sides Locked in Disinformation Battle
Since clashes erupted between Ethiopian forces and northern rebels more than a year ago, another war has flared up online as the rivals spread false claims to control the conflict’s narrative. Digital activists have been engaged in a fierce battle to discredit their opponents, from pro-government sites claiming to promote independent fact-checking to opponents sharing doctored content of alleged attacks. Experts warn that these online campaigns have fed into an already explosive situation in a country with a history of ethnic polarisation. … Communications remain cut in the conflict zone and access for journalists is restricted, making it difficult to verify battlefield claims. “(It’s been) difficult to know with confidence what is happening on the ground – a feature of this conflict from the beginning,” Joseph Siegle of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies told AFP Fact Check. “The prevalence of false narratives is contributing to increased scepticism toward all claims of abuse. This, in turn, is impeding a more coordinated and uniform international response to the crisis.” AFP

U.N. says 22 million Ethiopians will need food aid in 2022
An estimated 22 million Ethiopians will require humanitarian assistance in 2022, according to a United Nations report. Ethiopia’s already high humanitarian needs are expected to rise in the coming year due to the ongoing conflict, drought, flooding, disease outbreaks and locust infestation, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated. “Humanitarian needs remain high in several parts of Ethiopia with at least 20 million people requiring some form of humanitarian assistance until the end of the year,” the report says adding the number of people depending on emergency food assistance is increasing in the conflict-stricken regions of Tigray, Afar and Amhara. … The Amhara region, where several cities and towns were controlled by Tigray forces from July until recently, has registered the largest increase with 3.7 million people in urgent need of assistance. About 4 million internally displaced people across Ethiopia, the majority of whom have been forced to leave their homes due to the conflict in search of safety and assistance, according to U.N estimates. AP

‘Heading into the Worst’: How Drought Drives Conflict in Kenya
Lying in his hospital bed, a bandage wrapped around his foot, Ekidor Esekon remembers little of the day he was shot. What he does recall is setting out early on an otherwise normal morning in early December, to herd cows with his cousin deep in the bush along Kenya’s border with South Sudan. Then, they were attacked. Shots were fired; his cousin escaped and he found himself in an ambulance, with a gunshot wound near his abdomen and one foot swollen with pus. He knows that some of his animals were stolen but does not know how many are left. Esekon is one of an increasing number of pastoralist herders caught in a conflict along Kenya’s border with Uganda and South Sudan over dwindling natural resources, exacerbated by severe drought and hunger ravaging the region. The World Food Programme has reported that at least 2.4 million people in Kenya risk going hungry as drought hits the north and east of the country, a nearly threefold increase from last year. Two consecutive failed rainy seasons and multi-seasonal drought is expected to drive crisis and emergency across eastern and northern Kenya, as well as southern and southeastern Ethiopia and Somalia, where severe food insecurity is expected to continue into 2022, driven by the combined effects of conflict, drought, floods and economic shocks on household food and income sources. Al Jazeera

South Africa’s Huge Omicron Wave Appears to Be Subsiding Just as Quickly as It Grew
South Africa’s huge wave of omicron cases appears to be subsiding just as quickly as it grew in the weeks after the country first announced to the world that a new coronavirus variant had been identified. South Africa’s top infectious-disease scientist, who has been leading the country’s pandemic response, said Wednesday that the country had rapidly passed the peak of new omicron cases and, judging by preliminary evidence, he expected “every other country, or almost every other, to follow the same trajectory.” “If previous variants caused waves shaped like Kilimanjaro, omicron’s is more like we were scaling the North Face of Everest,” Salim Abdool Karim said in an interview, referring to the near-vertical increase in infections that South Africa recorded in the first weeks of December. … Karim said that both the quick peaking of cases and omicron’s lower severity could be due to multiple country-specific factors in South Africa, the most prominent being that more than 70 percent of South Africans have been infected by previous variants, probably giving a greater proportion of the population a more robust antibody response. … Karim noted that omicron accounted for nearly every new coronavirus case in South Africa last week. The Washington Post

DR Congo Faces Extra Hurdle in Quest for EAC Admission
Admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the East African Community (EAC) will take a while longer after Heads of State and government in the region directed further negotiation to harmonise rules. After the virtual 18th Extra-Ordinary Summit on Wednesday, Heads of State said they had authorised ministers to conduct another round of talks with DRC on how it can be admitted into the bloc. “The summit received and considered the report of the council on the verification mission on the admission of the DRC to join the East African Community and directed the council to expeditiously commence and conclude negotiations with DRC for admission…and report to the next summit,” the bloc said in a communiqué after the meeting chaired by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. The entry of DRC was thought to be done and dusted when, last month, the Council of Ministers said they had completed verification and recommended admission. The EAC Council of Ministers, chaired by Adan Mohamed, Kenya’s EAC Affairs and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary, gave the nod during an extraordinary meeting on November 22 in Arusha, Tanzania. The EastAfrican

Sudan’s Red Sea Port Struggles to Recover From Blockade and Turmoil
A blockade of Sudan’s main Red Sea port by a local tribal group and threats of more disruptions have hurt efforts to lift the country out of economic crisis and could push trade flows to another regional route, officials and shipping executives say. Several shipping firms were forced to pause bookings via Port Sudan, the African nation’s main international trade gateway that generates vital revenue for the cash-strapped state that is trying to recover from three years of political turmoil. The port, the main route for 90% of Sudan’s international trade and the terminal for a regional oil pipeline, could lose business to overland trade via Ain Sokhna, a Red Sea port in neighbouring Egypt to the north, Sudan’s former trade minister Ali Jiddo and other industry sources told Reuters. Another former minister said foreign investor interest in upgrading the port – which Sudan has long sought to turn into a hub to serve neighbouring landlocked nations – could wither. … The Beja Council, a group representing some eastern Sudanese tribes that have long complained of neglect by the central government, blocked the port for more than six weeks until Nov. 1 and has threatened further action. Meanwhile, Sudan has been convulsed by national protests and an Oct. 25 military coup. … Opponents of Sudan’s generals say the failure to act more swiftly – the blockade only came to an end after the Oct. 25 coup – may have served the military’s aims by creating a sense of crisis [before its coup]. Reuters

The Continent’s Africans of the Year: Vanessa Nakate
When yet another oil spill off the Nigerian coast threatened lives and livelihoods, a member of the local community tagged Vanessa Nakate in their tweet about the situation. In days past, such a tweet might have had an NGO or a western climate activist tagged. But here Nakate was chosen. The Ugandan climate activist has become a forceful voice from the Global South. Like her peers — who are inheriting a world that alternates between fire, drought and flood — she is blunt in her analysis of what is wrong, who is to blame and what must be done. … Inside, Nakate writes: “We are on the front line, but we are not on the front page.” That front line is Kampala, the capital of Uganda and the 25-year-old’s home. Her country has been hit hard by extreme weather events, made more frequent and damaging by carbon emissions from rich countries. People have died in floods and as a result of droughts, while locusts have wiped out the crops of subsistence farmers. A large part of the blame lies with the governance of President Yoweri Museveni, with his ongoing failure to realise the potential of the country and meaningfully improve the lives of its people. Poor governance means that people are already struggling, even before their crops and savings are wiped out by the climate crisis. The Continent