Africa Media Review for December 3, 2020

UN: 20,000 Foreign Fighters in Libya Are a ‘Serious Crisis’
The top U.N. official for Libya said Wednesday there are at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in the war-torn nation, and warned of a “serious crisis” as weapons continue pouring into the North African country. “That is a shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty … a blatant violation of the arms embargo,” U.N. acting envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams told an online meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. The 75-member forum is trying to get Libya’s warring sides to agree on a mechanism that would establish a transitional administration to lead the country through presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2021. … Williams’ remarks reflect her exasperation over the lack of progress on the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, which was part of a cease-fire deal inked in October. The cease-fire deal had set a three months’ deadline for foreign forces to leave Libya. Thousands — including Russians, Syrians, Sudanese and Chadians — have been brought to Libya by the rival sides, according to U.N. experts. AP

UN Chief Worried by DR Congo Tensions
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has sounded a warning about tension in Democratic Republic of Congo, where President Felix Tshisekedi is locked in a crisis with supporters of his predecessor, Joseph Kabila. In a report to the Security Council on Monday, Guterres said he was “concerned by the political tensions within the (DRC’s) ruling coalition.” These “could undermine the fragile political stability, reverse the gains made since the 2018 elections and the resulting peaceful transfer of power, as well as divert efforts to address security challenges” in the east of the vast country, he warned. The report, obtained by AFP on Wednesday, coincided with a video circulating on social media in which the head of the elite Republican Guard — which is tasked with protecting Tshisekedi — is seen ordering his men “not to plot against the government.” The upper ranks of the armed forces are dominated by officers appointed by Kabila, who stepped down in early 2019 after 18 years in power. AFP

Official: Africa Needs COVID-19 Vaccine for 60% in 2-3 Years
Africa’s top public health official says 60% of the continent’s population needs to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the next two to three years. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters on Thursday that if it takes four to five years, “the virus will be endemic in our communities.” African health officials are taking heart in vaccine progress, but concerns are growing that the continent of 1.3 billion people will be near the end of the line in obtaining doses. Nkengasong isn’t sure whether vaccines will be available in Africa before the second quarter of next year. … Nkengasong says the 60% vaccination target is needed to achieve herd immunity in Africa’s 54 countries. He stressed the challenges ahead, saying “the continent as a whole has never vaccinated 200 million people in one year,” a reference to the goal of reaching about 20% of the population by the end of 2021. Nkengasong also vowed that “no sub-standard vaccines will be in use in Africa.” AP

South Africa: African Nation Worst Hit by COVID Falling behind on Vaccines
The African country with the worst confirmed coronavirus outbreak is yet to provide clarity on how it plans to order vaccines, even as the global race to secure inoculations accelerates. South Africa is hosting three trials, including for Johnson & Johnson and a partnership between AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, yet hasn’t announced a firm strategy to immunize a population that’s bracing for a potential resurgence of the pandemic. Almost 22,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the nation, the 14th-highest worldwide. South Africa did confirm last week that it plans to sign up to Covax, a global initiative that strives to ensure that poorer countries have access to shots. … Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd., Africa’s biggest drugmaker, signed a deal last month to manufacture about a third of the one billion doses J&J hopes to produce next year in a South African factory. Half of the total will be destined for emerging markets under the Covax program, according to Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen’s senior executive for trade. Bloomberg

Interpol Raises the Alarm over Fake COVID-19 Vaccines in Nigeria, Others
The International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) has alerted Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and 190 other countries of threat from organised criminal groups during the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, including fake vaccines and the theft of supplies. The alert came as the UK yesterday became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for widespread use. The need for a vaccine has become more urgent globally and nationally with Nigeria recording over 67,000 COVID-19 infections and over 1,000 associated fatalities, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has so far identified 49 “candidate vaccines” at the stage of clinical trials in humans. … Interpol, however, observed that there is a rise in the activities of criminals who have started advertising and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, especially online. This Day

Nigeria: Anger, Trauma over Years of Tensions with Police in Lagos Suburb
It was 1pm on October 20 – just hours before the now-infamous Lekki tollgate shooting left 15 people dead – when another police shooting took place in Mushin, a bustling, lower-income neighbourhood some 20km (12.4 miles) away. That morning, protesters in Mushin had joined nationwide calls demanding an end to the rogue police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), known for its brutality and extrajudicial tactics. Hundreds gathered at Agege Motor Road, shutting down a major intersection that passes through Mushin from Ikeja, the state capital; while smaller protests broke out in the arteries of the neighbourhood’s streets. Everything was festive among the crowd, who had their fists raised, chanting “End SARS” and singing along to lyrics by Fela Kuti, witnesses told Al Jazeera, when suddenly the atmosphere turned at a protest site closest to the Olosan Police Station, and an altercation occurred. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s Police Reform Efforts under Scrutiny
Lekki Toll Gate, a nondescript toll plaza on a busy Lagos highway, has become a rallying cry for Nigerians demanding police reform. After dark on October 20, eyewitnesses say, security forces opened fire on protesters demonstrating against Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS. … Days of confrontation followed between protesters and police. The clashes left at least 51 civilians, 11 police officers and seven soldiers dead, according to government figures. The Nigerian government vowed investigations and police reform. It disbanded the SARS unit, reassigned officers and promised additional human rights training. There are several investigations of alleged police abuse of power underway. … Protesters say disbanding the SARS police unit is not enough — they are calling for lasting police reform at all levels, and they say their demands are not being met. VOA

‘I Saw People Dying on the Road’: Tigray’s Traumatised War Refugees
When Ethiopia’s army shelled Humera, a small agricultural city in Tigray, in mid-November, 54-year-old Gush Tela rushed his wife and three children to safety in a nearby town. A few days later, he felt compelled to find out what had become of his home. As he approached the city on his motorbike, riding through the arid countryside, he said the stench of countless dead bodies filled the air. Men, women and children lay strewn along the road and in the surrounding fields, their bodies riddled with bullet holes, Tela said. “I saw many dead people being eaten by dogs,” Tela said from a refugee camp just over the border in Sudan, his voice breaking. “I saw many people dying on the road. Many difficult things, difficult to express, difficult to imagine.” … Accounts have emerged of appalling violence committed by multiple actors on both sides of the conflict, but with communications down and the media barred, it has been impossible to independently verify incidents – and who was responsible. The Guardian

Ethiopia: What We Know about the War in the Tigray Region
Long-simmering tensions between Ethiopia’s federal government, led by Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and defiant authorities in its northern Tigray region have erupted into a military confrontation. Hundreds of civilians have died, while tens of thousands have sought refuge in Sudan from airstrikes, as the conflict threatens to further destabilize the strategic Horn of Africa region. … Ethiopian ground troops and jet fighters have bombed targets across Tigray, battling the provincial government of the country’s most northern region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF. On Nov. 28, government forces claimed to have taken control of the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle, home to 500,000 civilians and thousands of battle-hardened TPLF fighters who had dug trenches and blown up bridges to halt the advance of federal troops. … TPLF fighters have likely melted into the civilian population and hide-outs elsewhere in the state, where regional analysts and Western diplomats say they are preparing to mount an armed insurgency. WSJ

Rise in Executions in Egypt in past Two Months – Amnesty
Egypt executed 57 men and women in October and November, nearly double the 32 people reported in the whole of 2019, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. At least 15 of those executed had been sentenced to death in cases related to political violence following what Amnesty called unfair trials, the London-based human rights group said in a report. “The Egyptian authorities have embarked on a horrifying execution spree in recent months, putting scores of people to death, in some cases following grossly unfair mass trials,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director. … Egyptian courts have sentenced some 3,000 people to death since 2014, when Sisi took power, according to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, an independent organization that documents human rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa. Reuters

Ugandan Opposition Candidate Bobi Wine Resumes Campaign
Ugandan opposition presidential hopeful and musician Bobi Wine said Wednesday he would resume his campaign after suspending it in protest over police brutality. Wine spoke to journalists in the capital, Kampala, after meeting the head of the country’s electoral body. He suspended his campaign on Tuesday after police shot his car tires and fired rubber bullets that injured his bodyguards and supporters. “We narrowly survived death,” he said. “We came here to tell the electoral commission to take charge of the electoral process or resign if they cannot stop police brutality,” Wine said after meeting with electoral commission chief Simon Byabakama. Wine, who carried photos of his injured supporters to the meeting, said the commission promised to address his concerns. AP

Ghana Election 2020: The Battle of Two Presidents
Ghana will hold its general elections on Monday, December 7, 2020. The election has been touted by many as one of the most competitive ever in the fourth republic mainly because the leading candidates of the largest political parties (NDC and NPP) have all had the presidential experience. The candidate of the largest opposition party, National Democratic Congress, John Mahama, 61, who has occupied the top office for more than six years – first as Vice President and then as President – will be seeking re-election after his record loss to the incumbent president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who is 76-years-old. Akufo-Addo, Ghana’s current president and candidate of the ruling New Patriotic Party, on the other hand, had tried his hands at the presidency, twice in 2008 and 2012 before being successful the third time in 2016. He contested John Mahama twice and will contest him again. This election will be the last time the country will ever see both men on the ballot. GhanaWeb

Eyes on Female VP Candidate as Ghana Heads to the Polls
With two old rivals facing off in Ghana’s presidential election on Dec. 7 amid familiar economic woes, many voters are paying more attention to a new element in the political mix – the first ever female vice-presidential candidate for a major party. West Africa’s second-largest economy has one of the highest levels of women-owned businesses in the world, yet just 13% of parliamentary seats are held by women. Former education minister Jane Naana Opoku-Agyeman hopes that the decision of Ghana’s main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to nominate her as its candidate for vice-president will inspire other women to enter politics. “Many are those who are now more energised to vote, thanks to the momentous decision,” Opoku-Agyeman, 69, said on the campaign trail in July after her nomination, promising to hold the door open for other women. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones