Africa Media Review for December 27, 2021

A Crucial Moment in Chad’s Transition
Chad’s national dialogue will not achieve stability or peace as long as those who support civilian rule and civilian transition continue to be excluded from the transition. … At the end of last month, Chad’s military junta, the Conseil Militaire de Transition (CMT), declared a general amnesty for nearly 300 individuals charged with “crimes of opinion,” “terrorism,” and “harming the integrity of the state.” The decision partially fulfills the preconditions demanded by the armed Chadian opposition for their participation in an inclusive national dialogue. Since assuming power last April, following President Idriss Déby’s unexpected death in battle, junta leaders have touted this dialogue as a key step in the return to civilian rule. The dialogue, however, fails to include many actors who represent a civilian opposition to the military-led transition. Instead, the dialogue seeks to engage an armed opposition comprised of politico-military groups deemed rebels or mercenaries by the Chadian state… Bringing these groups to the table at a national dialogue may signal a significant change for Chadian politics—though, not for democracy or stability. Instead, it would signal a shift in power distribution without a shift away from the violent means by which power is and has been derived in Chad. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Anti-Coup Protesters in Sudan Press Their Demand for Return to Civilian Rule
Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of several cities in Sudan on Saturday, activists and pro-democracy groups said, denouncing the October military coup that imperiled the nation’s fragile steps toward stability and its attempt at a democratic transition after decades of military rule. The protests on Saturday were the 10th major demonstrations in the last two months, as coup opponents have remained defiant despite a continued crackdown from security forces, repeatedly pouring into the streets week after week to demand a return to civilian rule. Anticipating Saturday’s protests, the authorities cut mobile internet starting from 6 a.m. local time, according to the internet monitoring organization NetBlocks. They also obstructed major roads in the capital, Khartoum, and closed bridges linking it to the neighboring city of Omdurman across the Nile River. … “All these measures confirm the intentions of the putschists to confront the processions with more violence and brutality and for violations not to be documented,” [the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors] said in a statement posted Saturday on Facebook. … Since the coup, Sudan has been gripped by widespread and nearly continuous protests denouncing the Oct. 25 military coup along with the Nov. 21 deal with the military that reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to power. … Saturday’s protests came just days after Mr. Hamdok had signaled to political figures that he intended to resign from his post, according to an official in his office. The New York Times

Arrival of Russian Wagner Mercenaries in Mali Condemned by European Governments
Sixteen European governments have issued a statement to “firmly condemn the deployment of mercenary troops” in the west African state of Mali. The 16 governments, including France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany, said they were aware of “the involvement of the Russian Federation government in providing material support to the deployment of the Wagner group in Mali and call on Russia to revert to a responsible and constructive behavior in the region.” The Wagner group, a notorious Russian paramilitary company, and associated military contractors have been previously deployed to eastern Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Mozambique and the Central African Republic, according to multiple CNN investigations. Earlier this week, flight-tracking data showed a Russian Air Force Tu-154 flying to the Malian capital, Bamako, from Benghazi in Libya, where Wagner has had a presence in support of forces led by Khalifa Haftar, a renegade general who leads the self-styled Libyan National Army. The aircraft belonged to the Russian Air Force 223rd Flight. … The European states said the deployment to Mali “can only further deteriorate the security situation in West Africa. CNN reported earlier this year on human rights abuses, including arbitrary killings and torture of civilians, by Russian mercenaries in Central African Republic. CNN

41 Killed in Burkina Faso Ambush Including Volunteer Leader
Islamic extremists killed 41 people last week in an attack in northern Burkina Faso, including the prominent leader of a volunteer group helping the country’s military, the government said. … Among the victims was Soumaila Ganame, also known as Ladji Yoro. Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said Ganame had died for his country and “must be a model of our determined commitment to fight the enemy.” The death of Burkina Faso’s most important volunteer leader has created a sense of panic, said Heni Nsaibia, a senior researcher at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. “While Ganame achieved legendary status as a popular counter-insurgent who played a central role in mobilizing (volunteers) in Loroum and Yatenga, he was also the embodiment of the absent state,” he said. … More than 50 gendarmes were killed in November in the largest attack on the country’s security forces in recent memory and at least 160 civilians were massacred in the Sahel region in June. Even though Burkina Faso’s security forces are conducting the most operations compared to its neighbors in the volatile Sahel region, the army is overstretched, putting out one fire at a time, Nsaibia said. AP

Somalia’s President Suspends Prime Minister Over Corruption Allegations
Somalia’s president suspended the country’s prime minister and marine forces commander on Monday, a sharp escalation in a political dispute that threatens to further destabilize the troubled nation on the Horn of Africa. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed suspended Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble over allegations of corruption and misuse of public land. Mr. Mohamed’s office had earlier accused Mr. Roble of “posing a serious threat to the electoral process” and carrying out activities that were in violation of his mandate. Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, the prime minister’s spokesman, accused Mr. Mohamed of “attempting to take over the prime minister’s office through armed forces” and called the moves “unconstitutional.” Mr. Roble refused to accept the order, and international observers expressed concern that the dispute could set off yet another cycle of violence in a nation battered by decades of fighting. The simmering political impasse blew into open violence in the streets in April, after Mr. Mohamed signed a law extending his term in office by two years. … The showdown eventually led Mr. Mohamed to ask Parliament to nullify the extension and request that Mr. Roble help organize the delayed elections. But that process has not been smooth, with legislative elections facing delays, irregularities and multiple corruption allegations from candidates and observers. The New York Times

Many African Countries Are Toughening Pandemic Restrictions in the Face of a COVID Surge.
In just the past three weeks, the percentage of Kenyans who tested positive for the coronavirus jumped from less than 1 percent to more than 30 percent — the country’s highest positivity rate yet. In Uganda, nearly 50 lawmakers and their staff members, some of them vaccinated, tested positive this week after attending a sports tournament in neighboring Tanzania. And in Zimbabwe, skyrocketing infections have pushed the government to institute new restrictions on businesses and incoming travelers. Across Africa, countries are reporting a surge in Covid cases, and health officials worry about how the new Omicron variant will affect the world’s least-vaccinated continent. Omicron, which was first detected in southern Africa, remains highly contagious, but so far it is causing fewer deaths and hospitalizations than previous variants such as Delta. … At least 21 African countries are now experiencing a fourth wave of the pandemic, according to the Africa C.D.C. Three countries — Algeria, Kenya and Mauritius — are undergoing a fifth one. The New York Times

In Under-Vaccinated Congo, Fourth COVID-19 Wave Fills Hospitals
At the St Joseph Covid Treatment Centre in Kinshasa, patients lie in ramshackle rooms breathing oxygen from old tanks. The clinic has 38 beds, and all but one are occupied. In a backyard littered with medical equipment, tents are needed to cope with the overflow. Democratic Republic of Congo is the least vaccinated country against Covid-19 in the world. Now a fourth wave of the coronavirus threatens to put greater pressure on its rickety health system than at any time during the pandemic. “We have experienced the three previous waves gradually, but in the fourth wave cases have jumped overnight,” said Francois Kajingulu, the head of St Joseph. “On Monday we had 5-6 cases and on Saturday we went straight from 30 to 36.” The increase is part of an Africa-wide surge that saw weekly Covid cases spike 83% in mid-December, driven by the Delta and Omicron variants, although deaths remain low, the WHO said. Congo registered 6,480 new cases in the week of Dec. 13 – more than double the number hit during its previous record week in June, World Health Organisation data show. … Fewer than 300,000 people out of a population of 90 million have received at least one dose, Reuters data indicates, lower than anywhere else. Reuters

Death Toll in DRC Christmas Bombing Rises to Eight
The death toll from a Saturday suicide bombing attack on a restaurant in Beni city, Democratic Republic of Congo, has risen to eight. The Christmas Day attack happened at Inbox bar where people were celebrating the festive season. The bomber, an unidentified man, set off the explosion around 8pm local time at the entrance to the busy bar in Ishango. It is not yet clear if the suicide bomber was acting alone or part of a group, but this is the third bomb attack in Beni since June. In a statement, the government of President Félix Tshisekedi pointed the finger at Islamist terrorism. Officials said the crimes will not go unpunished and that the perpetrators will be hunted down. The attack has sparked a wave of reactions. Huang Xia, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, said he “strongly condemns the cowardly attack in Beni.” … Among the dead was a Congolese army officer, his wife and child. Mr Muyaya said the mayor of Rwenzori commune and the deputy mayor of Mulekera commune were among the injured. The EastAfrican

After Suicide Bombing, Congo Officials Fear More Attacks
Saturday’s bloodshed dramatically deepened fears that Islamic extremism has taken hold in Beni. The town already has suffered years of attacks by rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, who trace their origins to neighboring Uganda. … There have been worrying signs that religious extremism was escalating around Beni: Two local imams were killed earlier this year within weeks of each other, one of whom had spoken out against the ADF. Then in June, the Islamic State group’s Central Africa Province claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber who blew himself up near a bar in Beni without harming others. Another explosion that same day at a Catholic church wounded two people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s attack, in which authorities say the bomber ultimately was stopped from entering the crowded restaurant. AP

Nigeria: Bandits Attack Zamfara Communities, Kill Seven, Kidnap 33
Armed persons for several hours late Saturday attacked 15 communities in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, killing at least seven people. Residents said the attacks started from late on Saturday, Christmas Day, to the early hours of Sunday. Apart from the people killed, at least 33 women were kidnapped by the armed bandits, the residents told BBC Hausa in interviews monitored by Premium Times. The villages attacked include Geba, Kura, Duma, Gana, Tsakuwa, Gidan Kada and Gidan Kaura. The residents said most of the villages were deserted on Sunday evening for fear of more attacks with residents taking refuge in Damba Estate in the state capital. “They took 10 women in Kura village. In Bayauri, we knew they took nine women including young ladies, while seven women were taken in Gana and went to Duma and abducted another seven in the early morning of yesterday Sunday,” one of the residents told BBC Hausa. He added that those who escaped the attack in Kura said seven people were killed but they could not retrieve their corpses for proper burial. Premium Times

Gambia Commission Recommends Ex-Dictator Jammeh Face Trial
Gambia’s former dictator, Yahya Jammeh, should face prosecution for murder, torture and sexual violence, according to a new report by a truth, reconciliation and reparations commission established after he fled into exile five years ago. The long-awaited report recommends that a special international court be set up to try Jammeh and others in West Africa, but outside of Gambia. The report, which is based on years of witness testimonies, already had been presented to President Adama Barrow, but its posting online late Friday marked the first time that the complete findings were made public. Gambian Justice Minister Dawda A. Jallow said that the government was “committed to the implementation of the report,” but wouldn’t release a paper before May on how it plans to go forward. Reed Brody with the International Commission of Jurists said he expected pressure to now mount on Gambia’s leader “to deliver justice without further delay for victims who have already waited five years, and in some cases much longer.” AP

Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s Moral Conscience, Dies at 90
Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning icon, an uncompromising foe of apartheid and a modern-day activist for racial justice and LGBT rights, died Sunday at 90. South Africans, world leaders and people around the globe mourned the death of the man viewed as the country’s moral conscience. Tutu worked passionately, tirelessly and non-violently to tear down apartheid — South Africa’s brutal, decades-long regime of oppression against its Black majority that only ended in 1994. The buoyant, blunt-spoken clergyman used his pulpit as the first Black bishop of Johannesburg and later as the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, as well as frequent public demonstrations, to galvanize public opinion against racial inequity, both at home and globally. Nicknamed “the Arch,” the diminutive Tutu became a towering figure in his nation’s history, comparable to fellow Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, a prisoner during white rule who became South Africa’s first Black president. Tutu and Mandela shared a commitment to building a better, more equal South Africa. Upon becoming president in 1994, Mandela appointed Tutu to be chairman of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which uncovered the abuses of apartheid. AP