Africa Media Review for December 29, 2021

Somalia Conflict Escalates: ‘We Know Al-Shabaab Will Take Advantage’
In the ruins of his devastated hospital, Ali Omar Tarabi despairs at the violence that has come to the city of Guriel, a once peaceful haven in Somalia. “The fighting, the war has arrived here.” … The city of Guriel has been the site of some of this year’s deadliest fighting in a country that has been beset by decades of violence. Humanitarian and local officials estimate that since October 120 people have been killed in fighting between regional and federal forces and a splinter faction of Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a, a paramilitary and political group and until recently a government ally. More than 100,000 people have fled the area. … Al-Shabaab fighters are just 70km from Guriel, say local and humanitarian officials, and have made gains in the semi-autonomous central state of Galmudug for the first time in a decade. “Al-Shabaab is taking advantage of the government fighting Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a at a time when the government has lost some military capacity to fight al-Shabaab,” said a senior western official focused on Somalia. … The AU, which has almost 20,000 troops in Somalia, earlier this month voiced concerns about the government’s ability “to effectively hold on to territory liberated from al-Shabaab” and its “lack of required capacity to immediately take over full responsibility of guaranteeing national security in Somalia after December 31 2021.” The UN Security Council this month approved a three-month extension of the force until the end of March. At the same time, a civil war in Ethiopia and a coup in Sudan have dragged attention away from Somalia, which has lacked an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. FT

Security Forces Loyal to Somalia PM Gather outside Presidential Palace
Hundreds of troops loyal to Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble camped on Tuesday near the residence of his political rival President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a day after the president tried to suspend the prime minister. Roble has called Mohamed’s plan to suspend him a coup attempt. A statement from the United States, which operates in Somalia against Islamist militants, called on all sides to avoid escalation but also appeared to back the prime minister. A Reuters photographer at the scene said the security forces had taken no action by Tuesday afternoon apart from assembling. But the gathering spurred fears of a potential clash between forces loyal to the two men. “Troops have camped in our village. …If the notorious Villa Somalia (presidential palace) starts war then there will be a crossfire,” Canab Osman, a mother of seven who operates a grocery shop in a nearby district of the capital Mogadishu told Reuters. Another resident and local elder, Farah Ali, told Reuters security forces that had amassed in the area were fitting pickup trucks with artillery weapons. Somalia, where no central government has held broad authority for 30 years, is in the midst of a protracted indirect election process to choose new leadership, repeatedly held up amid confrontation between Mohamed and Roble. Reuters

Ugandan Novelist and Government Critic Arrested: Lawyer
A prominent Ugandan novelist and government critic has been arrested in Kampala, his lawyer said Wednesday, prompting calls by rights activists for his release. “Armed men claiming to be from the Uganda Police Force” broke into Kakwenza Rukirabashaija’s home on Tuesday, his lawyer Eron Kiiza said, adding that he had been on the telephone to his client at the time. “I heard them threaten to break his legs,” Kiiza told AFP. An outspoken critic of President Yoweri Museveni’s government, Rukirabashaija won acclaim for his 2020 satirical novel, “The Greedy Barbarian”, which describes high-level corruption in a fictional country. Rukirabashaija had recently stepped up criticism of Museveni’s son Muhoozi Kainerugaba — a general who many Ugandans believe is positioning himself to take over from his 77-year-old father — calling him “obese” and a “curmudgeon.” … According to Kiiza, witnesses saw Rukirabashaija being bundled into a van known as a “drone,” which is associated with abductions of government opponents in Uganda. Rukirabashaija was selected by the PEN Pinter Prize to win this year’s International Writer of Courage award, which is presented annually to a writer who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs. Rukirabashaija has been repeatedly arrested after “The Greedy Barbarian” was published and said he was tortured while being interrogated about his work by military intelligence. AFP

Resistance Committee Members Detained as Sudan’s GIS Given Power of Arrest
Sudanese security forces have embarked on a campaign of detentions in Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North (Bahri), and raided the homes of members of the resistance committees in the capital and other states since Saturday. The head of the ruling junta, Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, has temporarily given the General Intelligence Service (GIS), successor of the infamous (now disbanded) National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the authority to arrest civilians during the State of Emergency. The coordination of the Resistance Committees in Omdurman reported that Abdallah El Nour, a member of the Karari Resistance Committee, was held by a force wearing civilian clothes on Sunday and took him to an unknown destination. The Resistance Committee of Haj Yousef, a densely populated neighbourhood in Khartoum North, said that three of its members were held at dawn on Monday, and they are Diaeldin Salah, Osama Hashem, and Awad Abdoun. Emergency lawyers said that the police have taken blood and urine samples from activists detained on December 25, in a move to fabricate accusations for them. The lawyers said that they are in the process of submitting legal process against these illegal measures. Radio Dabanga

Sudan Officials Say Defunct Mine Collapses, Kills 38 People
Sudanese authorities said at least 38 people were killed Tuesday when a defunct gold mine collapsed in West Kordofan province. The country’s state-run mining company said in a statement the collapse of the closed, non-functioning mine took place in the village of Fuja 700 kilometers (435 miles) south of the capital of Khartoum. It said there were also injuries without giving a specific tally. Local media reported that several shafts collapsed at the Darsaya mine, and that besides the dead at least eight injured people were taken to a local hospital. … Sudan is a major gold producer with numerous mines scattered across the country. In 2020, the East African nation produced 36.6 tons, the second most in the continent, according to official numbers. The transitional government has begun regulating the industry in the past two years amid allegations of gold smuggling. Collapses are common in Sudan’s gold mines, where safety standards are not widely in effect. AP

Uhuru, Blinken Hold Talks on Ethiopia, Somalia
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Tuesday held talks with peace in Ethiopia and Somalia topping the agenda. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the telephone talks between the two leaders centred on regional security issues of mutual interest, “including the situations in Ethiopia and Somalia.” “In Ethiopia, they agreed on the urgent need for a cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, an end to human rights abuses and violations, and a negotiated resolution to the conflict,” said Price. “The Secretary expressed the strong support of the United States for the mediation efforts of President Kenyatta and AU Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo.” On Somalia, the Secretary underscored the importance of Somalia’s national and Federal Member State leaders concluding parliamentary and presidential elections immediately and free from irregularities that would jeopardise the credibility of the outcome, added Price. The EastAfrican

Ethiopia’s Tigray Taps Muslim Past in Propaganda Push
Rebels from Ethiopia’s Tigray region are drawing on early Islamic history in an Arabic-language propaganda push to rally solidarity among Muslims online for their battle against the government. Thousands of people have been killed since the conflict erupted last year between the government in Addis Ababa and its foes, the rebel Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The overwhelmingly Christian Tigrayan people account for less than six percent of Ethiopia’s 110 million people, and the media-savvy TPLF rebels may hope to win over Muslim allies among anti-government forces in the country’s complex multi-ethnic population — as well as generate sympathy abroad. Amongst Tigray’s five percent Muslim-minority, Tigrinya speakers writing in Arabic have sought to remind people about the role the region played as one of the first Islamic settlements and as a refuge for early Muslims fleeing Mecca. But while their references may be drawn from the Koran, “the conflict in Ethiopia is not religious but ethnic”, one Tigrayan activist using the alias Mustafa Habashi told AFP in Arabic, who insists his efforts are not connected to TPLF activities. … Alongside fighting on the ground, both the government in Addis Ababa and the TPLF accuse each other of spreading lies in a bitter media war. For the TPLF, allied to the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the propaganda outreach may also be a way to burnish credentials among the wider 40 million-strong Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, of whom roughly half are Muslim. AFP

Libya Parliament Suspends Session without Crisis Breakthrough
Libya’s parliament on Tuesday suspended its session until next week without a vote on any of the proposals raised on Monday for handling the fallout of last week’s delayed election. The session in Tobruk on Monday and Tuesday represented a first effort by Libya’s fractured political class to chart a way forward after the election was delayed following disputes over the rules. However, Monday’s session broke up amid shouted arguments after various proposals were raised to push back the election date, look at restructuring the GNU and consider constitutional changes. Tuesday’s session had been expected to include votes on those proposals. The parliament spokesman did not give any immediate reason for the suspension of the session. It leaves in the balance both the electoral process and the future of the interim Government of National Unity (GNU) and Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah. Dbeibah’s eligibility as a presidential candidate was a major cause of disagreement in the run-up to the election. On Monday U.N. special envoy Stephanie Williams told Reuters that the main focus should be on moving forward with elections that were wanted by a majority of Libyans. Reuters

‘Our House Was Gone, It Was Sea and Sand’: Life on the Vanishing Coasts – In Pictures
Bandarbeyla, a small town in north-east Somalia, is one of many settlements along the country’s coast to feel the effects of the climate crisis. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed hundreds of Somalis and destroyed more than 300 homes. Even 17 years later, some families are still living in makeshift shelters because they cannot afford to rebuild permanent homes. The tsunami also devastated livelihoods: boats were destroyed, leaving people unable to fish, one of the main sources of income in the region. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), a lack of legislation on climate change and effective policies on land use, disaster risk management and fisheries “allows unsustainable and high-risk practices, such as construction in areas prone to coastal erosion, to continue unchecked.” … The Guardian

The Man Who Plants Baobabs: A Burkina Faso Hero
Meet El Hadji, the man whose baobab forest provides food and climate protection in Burkina Faso. El Hadji Salifou Ouédraogo has nurtured thousands of baobab trees from tiny seeds to expansive forests for the past 47 years. The trees in turn help his family, his village and the Earth. Filmmaker Michel K Zongo’s uplifting film, The Man Who Plants Baobabs, meets this charismatic old man with a youthful spirit and a lifelong commitment to his trees, which are both a lifeline and a legacy for his community. Al Jazeera

Top African Songs of 2021 – Part 1
Another year has passed defined by COVID-19’s ‘new normal.’ The year 2021 was a challenging one for musicians, who generally rely on live performances as a main source of income. But most artists didn’t throw in the towel and remained determined to continue releasing good music that earned them awards at home and abroad. With the coronavirus showing no signs of ending anytime soon, as was witnessed by the emergence of a new highly transmissible variant globally, artists continued to focus on presenting their music digitally, where they could engage with fans from around the world and grow their brands for mass consumption. With the help of our regional editors across the continent, Music In Africa has curated a two-part playlist of Africa’s most popular music in 2021. We have divided the playlist into the continent’s five regions, namely Southern Africa (part 1), West Africa (part 1), East Africa (part 2), Central Africa (part 2) and North Africa (part 2). We hope that you enjoy the music. Music in Africa