Africa Media Review for December 28, 2020

Niger Begins Tallying Votes; Handover Would Be First Democratic Transition
Niger began counting the votes Sunday from an election that is expected to lead to the West African nation’s first transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents. Results are expected in the coming days. A smooth handover would be a rare bright spot for a country that has seen four coups since gaining independence from France in 1960 and is blighted by poverty and Islamist violence that has killed hundreds of civilians and soldiers in the last year alone. … “It’s extremely important for us because we are seen as the champion of the coup d’état,” said 50-year-old Massaoudou Abdou, who voted in a school in the town of Maradi in southern Niger. “In 60 years of independence, this is the first time,” he said, referring to the passing of power from one elected president to another. There were no reports of widespread disruptions. Reuters

Central African Republic Votes in Poll Amid Sporadic Violence
Central African Republic residents turned out in significant numbers for presidential and legislative elections on Sunday, the head of the United Nations mission said, despite rebels opening fire in some areas to try to scare away voters. Armed groups hostile to President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who is seeking a second term, have carried out attacks and threatened to march to the capital Bangui and disrupt the election after the constitutional court this month rejected several candidates, including former President Francois Bozize. … Vote counting began on Sunday and full provisional results are expected by the end of the week. … The election will go to a second round if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote. … On Saturday, the UN – which has more than 12,800 peacekeepers in the country – said “unidentified armed combatants” killed three peacekeepers from Burundi in attacks in the central Kemo prefecture and the southern Mbomou prefecture. Al Jazeera

Uganda: Bobi Wine Says Bodyguard Killed in Violence Ahead of Poll
A bodyguard for Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine was killed and two journalists injured on Sunday amid violent confrontations between security forces and followers of the singer and lawmaker who is challenging the country’s longtime leader. A tearful Bobi Wine … said his bodyguard had died of his injuries after being allegedly run over by a truck belonging to the military police. The victim, Francis Senteza, was attacked while helping to transport a journalist injured during an earlier confrontation between the police and a group of Bobi Wine’s supporters, he said. … Uganda faces growing pressure from the international community and rights watchdogs to respect human rights ahead of polls scheduled for January 14. … Electoral authorities on Saturday banned campaign events in some urban areas, including the capital Kampala, citing an urgent need to control the spread of the coronavirus. That decision has been criticised by some who see it as a ploy to prevent opposition figures from displaying their support in areas where the governing party is not so popular. Al Jazeera

As Virus Resurges in Africa, Doctors Fear the Worst Is Yet to Come
The coronavirus killed far fewer people in Africa than in Europe and the Americas, leading to a widespread perception that it was a disease of the West. Now, a tide of new cases on the continent is raising alarms. … In South Africa, a crush of new cases that spread from Port Elizabeth is growing exponentially across the nation, with deaths mounting. Eight countries, including Nigeria, Uganda and Mali, recently recorded their highest daily case counts all year. “The second wave is here,” John N. Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has declared. … Evidence is growing that many cases were missed…“It is possible and very likely that the rate of exposure is much more than what has been reported,” Dr. Nkengasong said in an interview. … In South Africa, the continent’s leader by far in coronavirus cases and deaths, the growing devastation in its medical system has led to the rationing of care for older adults. Last week, officials announced that a new variant of the virus that may be associated with faster transmission has become dominant. The New York Times

Wars, Instability Pose Vaccine Challenges in Poor Nations
The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is leading a continent-wide effort to vaccinate Africa’s 1.3 billion people in 54 countries. The agency is coordinating efforts to obtain doses and seeking World Bank help in funding — estimating it will take $10 billion to acquire, distribute and administer the vaccines. The aim is to vaccinate 60% of Africa’s population within two years — some 700 million people — more than the continent has done in the past, said John Nkengasong, director of the African CDC. “The time for action is now,” said Nkengasong. “The West cannot defeat COVID-19 alone. It must be defeated by all over the world, and that includes Africa.” Congo underscores the obstacles the campaign faces. The country has overcome Ebola outbreaks with vaccination campaigns. But it struggled in eastern Congo, where Allied Democratic Forces rebels stage frequent attacks and other armed groups vie for control of mineral riches. Rough terrain and insecurity meant vaccinators had trouble getting to all areas. Some came under attack. AP

Nigerian CDC Investigating New Coronavirus Variant
The Africa and Nigerian Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week said a new variant of the coronavirus has emerged in Nigeria. The head of Nigeria’s CDC said it is studying the new strain, which is different from new strains discovered in Britain and South Africa. The variant strain was discovered in two patient samples collected on August 3 and October 9 in Nigeria’s Osun State. The Nigeria CDC said it is studying the new strain. Director General Chikwe Ihekweazu said at a national COVID-19 briefing that it may be too early to determine if the new strain is deadlier or weaker than its parent virus. “What we’re now going to do is collect a selection of other viruses circulating in Nigeria now, so from the more recent cases and try and compare what we have now with what we have previously in Nigeria but also what is circulating abroad,” Ihekweazu said. “This is ongoing work.” … Nigeria is recording an escalation in coronavirus cases. Infections have increased by 52% from November to December. VOA

At Least 10 Dead in Boko Haram Attack in Nigeria’s Borno State
The jihadist group Boko Haram killed at least 10 people including four security personnel in raids on three villages in northeast Nigeria, local and security sources told AFP on Sunday. Fighters in six trucks attacked the villages of Shafa, Azare, and Tashan Alade in Borno state on Saturday and set fire to homes and public buildings while firing sporadically at residents. … The assailants went from village to village. In Azare, they “burnt a police station and killed two policemen, a member of the civil defense, and a vigilante,” another militiaman Bulus James said. The attack forced residents to flee into the bush amid shooting from the militants. … Boko Haram has stepped up attacks in recent days. In a video it released on Saturday the group claimed responsibility for a Christmas Eve attack on a village, in which 11 people died, as well as the kidnapping of a priest who appeared in the video. The Defense Post with AFP

At Least 40 Feared Abducted in Northeast Nigeria
Three loggers have been found dead and at least 40 more feared abducted by Boko Haram fighters in northeastern Nigeria. Sources and residents told AFP news agency on Saturday that the loggers were rounded up by the fighters on Thursday in Wulgo forest near the town of Gamboru where they went to collect firewood. … “We believe the men were taken by Boko Haram who have been attacking loggers in the forest,” said Shehu Mada, leader of another armed group. “From all indication, the three dead loggers were shot when they tried to escape as they all were shot from behind.” The area has been without telephone services for years following the destruction of masts in Boko Haram attacks, forcing residents to rely on Cameroon’s mobile phone networks. Gamboru loggers have suffered repeated Boko Haram attacks and abductions, especially around Wulgo forest. Al Jazeera

‘I Would Never Go Back’: Horrors Grow in Ethiopia’s Conflict
One survivor arrived on broken legs, others on the run. In this fragile refugee community on the edge of Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict, those who have fled nearly two months of deadly fighting continue to bring new accounts of horror. At a simple clinic in Sudan, one doctor-turned-refugee, Tewodros Tefera, examines the wounds of war: Children injured in explosions. Gashes from axes and knives. Broken ribs from beatings. Feet scraped raw from days of hiking to safety. On a recent day, he treated the shattered legs of fellow refugee Guesh Tesla, a recent arrival. … Now refugees are arriving from areas deeper inside Tigray amid reports that fighting continues in some locations. These newer arrivals have more severe trauma, the doctor Tewodros said, with signs of starvation and dehydration and some with gunshot wounds. It is the accounts of refugees like Tewodros and Guesh, and civilians who remain in Tigray, that eventually will reveal the scope of abuses that often are carried out along ethnic lines. AP

Refugees Come under Fire as Old Foes Fight in Concert in Ethiopia
As fighting raged across the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia last month, a group of soldiers arrived one day at Hitsats, a small hamlet ringed by scrubby hills that was home to a sprawling refugee camp of 25,000 people. The refugees had come from Eritrea, whose border lies 30 miles away, part of a vast exodus in recent years led by desperate youth fleeing the tyrannical rule of their leader, one of Africa’s longest-ruling autocrats. In Ethiopia, Eritrea’s longtime adversary, they believed they were safe. But the soldiers who burst into the camp on Nov. 19 were also Eritrean, witnesses said. Mayhem quickly followed — days of plunder, punishment and bloodshed that ended with dozens of refugees being singled out and forced back across the border into Eritrea. For weeks, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia has denied that soldiers from Eritrea — a country that Ethiopia once fought in an exceptionally brutal war — had entered Tigray, where Mr. Abiy has been fighting since early November to oust rebellious local leaders. The New York Times

Ethiopia Announces National Election to Be Held in June
Ethiopia will hold a parliamentary election on June 5, the electoral board said on Friday, as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed seeks to quell political and ethnic violence in several regions. Abiy’s Prosperity Party, a pan-Ethiopian movement he founded a year ago, faces challenges from increasingly strident ethnically-based parties seeking more power for their regions. Africa’s second most populous nation has a federal system with 10 regional governments, many of which have boundary disputes with neighbouring areas or face low-level unrest. In the northern Tigray region, thousands of people are believed to have died and 950,000 have fled their homes since fighting between regional and federal forces erupted on Nov. 4. Tigray held its own elections in September in defiance of the federal government, which declared the polls illegal. The National Electoral Board said next year’s calendar for polls did not include an election in Tigray. Reuters

Sudanese Man’s Death Draws Attention to Paramilitary Force
The death of a Sudanese man who was snatched while sitting at a coffee shop has sparked controversy around the scope of a paramilitary force whose members once formed the backbone of a militia that rights groups say committed war crimes in Darfur. Bahaa el-Din Nouri, 45, was taken on Dec. 16 from the Kalakla neighborhood in the southern part of the capital, Khartoum, by men wearing plain clothes and riding in a vehicle without license plates, his family has said. Five days later, his body appeared at a hospital morgue in the city of Omdurman, just across the Nile River from Khartoum. The family refused to take the body for immediate burial after seeing signs of apparent beating and torture, according to Nouri’s brother, Yasser. Culture and Information Minister Faisal Mohammed Saleh said the family met with the general prosecutor on Thursday and asked for an autopsy to reveal the cause of death. Saleh, who is also the government spokesman, said an initial investigation showed that Nouri died while being interrogated by the Rapid Support Forces. AP

Sudan Deploys Troops in South Darfur after Tribal Violence – Report
Sudan will deploy “large numbers” of troops to South Darfur state after the killing of 15 people in tribal violence recently, the state news agency cited the state governor as saying on Sunday. … A dispute over a water source between members of the tribes of Masalit and Fallata in Gereida city ended with the killing of two people from the Fallata tribe, SUNA news agency said, citing two local leaders. One of the leaders said Fallata members responded by killing 13 people from Masalit and wounding 34 others. … A meeting of the state security committee with military and local community leaders in Gereida decided to deploy troops “in large numbers” to pursue the perpetrators and collect arms, Mousa Mahdi, the governor of South Darfur told the agency. … Last week, the U.N. Security Council decided to end the mission of a joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, on Dec.31, more than 13 years after it established the operation. Reuters

Egypt Delegation Visits Libyan Capital, Meets Tripoli Gov’t
Egyptian diplomats and intelligence officials arrived in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Sunday, Libyan officials said, the most senior Egyptian delegation to visit the western part of the conflict-stricken country in years. The Egyptian delegation was headed by Ayman Badea, the deputy chief of the General Intelligence Service…. The delegation met with Fathi Bashagha, the powerful interior minister of the Tripoli-based government, as well as Emad Trapolsi, head of intelligence in western Libya. Bashagha’s office said in a statement that they discussed “mutual security challenges and ways to enhance security cooperation.” … The Egyptian delegation’s visit also came one day after Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, along with the military’s chief of staff Yasar Guler and other commanders, met with officials in Tripoli. In comments run by Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency on Sunday, Akar threatened to target Hifter’s forces if there were any attacks against Turkish forces in Libya. AP

Somalia’s Christmas Birthdays and Lost Memories
Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day are dates you’ll find many Somalis celebrating their birthdays. This is not as surprising as it sounds, it is just that very few Somalis know when exactly they were born and so opt for more memorable dates. Somalia has an oral culture – most Somalis are more likely to be able to tell you the names of the last 20 generations of their forefathers rather than the details of their birth date. And Somali only became a written language in 1972 when official records began to be kept – but very little remains of these archives because the country has been torn apart by civil war. Actually next year marks three decades since the Somali state collapsed leaving many families like mine without their important documents or photos. We were forced to flee the escalating violence which began a few years earlier in 1988 with aerial bombardments and ground attacks by the regime of then-President Siad Barre. BBC