Africa Media Review for December 31, 2020

Uganda Police Arrest Bobi Wine, Tear Gas Supporters
Uganda opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine, and his campaign team have been arrested in Kalangala in the country’s central region, he said in a post on Twitter. The arrests on Wednesday spurred protests at a field in Kalangala Island in Lake Victoria where a helicopter was parked and which Wine’s supporters said they believed would be used to fly him back to the capital Kampala. Police fired tear gas at the crowd who were protesting. … Reuters photographs from the scene showed Wine being escorted by at least 10 police officers, some armed with rifles. Wine was wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest, which he has said he uses to prevent injuries whenever police disperse his meetings. In November, at least 54 people died after protests erupted following Wine’s brief detention over alleged violation of social-distancing measures. … United Nations human rights experts urged Uganda on Tuesday to curb violent security forces and drop charges against political opponents and activists arrested in what the experts called an election clampdown. Reuters

Increased Testing Needed as Africa Sees Rise in Virus Cases
As a result of holiday gatherings, African officials warn of a resurgence of COVID-19 on the continent and urge increased testing to combat it. The level of testing across the continent is considerably less than what health experts say is needed to effectively control the spread of the disease. Africa makes up about 3.3% of the global total of confirmed virus cases, but this is believed to be just a fraction of the actual cases on the continent of 1.3 billion people. When the pandemic began only two of Africa’s 54 countries had laboratories to test for the disease. Now virtually every one of the continent’s countries can carry out the tests. Together Africa’s countries have conducted at least 25 million COVID-19 tests, with a recent increase of 3%, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. … The distribution of the tests, however, is very uneven. Just 10 countries — South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and Cameroon — are carrying out more than 70% of the continent’s testing. AP

World Risks ‘Moral Catastrophe’ If COVID Shots Delayed in Africa, Its CDC Chief Says
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hopes significant vaccination campaigns on the continent will begin in April, its head, John Nkengasong, told reporters. “That’s a long way to go given that this virus transmits very quickly,” he said, adding that in Africa, “the second wave is here with a vengeance.” Cases of the new coronavirus increased by nearly 19% since last week and deaths increased by 26%, according to Africa CDC data. Africa has recorded 2.7 million coronavirus infections and 64,000 deaths as of Thursday, it says. South Africa, where a new variant of the virus has been detected, recorded 82,000 cases in the past week, he said. “We cannot delay, we need those vaccines and need them now,” Nkengasong said. Reuters

China to Visit Africa First for 30th Year in Row, Signaling Priority in Ties
China’s top diplomat will travel to five African countries next year for his first trip abroad, continuing a three-decade tradition in which Beijing has prioritized the continent in its public diplomacy. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin confirmed during a press conference Wednesday in Beijing that Foreign Minister Wang Yi would head to Africa. China’s most senior diplomat was set to travel to Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Tanzania and Seychelles from January 4 through 9. … New Year’s Day will mark the beginning of the final year for target goals laid out by the 2018 Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit. All 54 countries of Africa have participated in the group with the exception of Eswatini, the tiny landlocked nation once known as Swaziland, whose leader became the first head of state to die of COVID-19 while in office earlier this month. Newsweek

UN Chief Seeks Monitors for Libya’s Fragile Ceasefire
UN chief Antonio Guterres has proposed international monitors to support Libya’s fragile ceasefire amid hopes that foreign fighters will soon leave and the country can turn the page on a decade of war. In a letter to Security Council members seen by AFP, the secretary-general asked to set up a monitoring group that would include civilians and retired soldiers from regional groups such as the African Union, European Union and Arab League. The warring sides, which reached a ceasefire on October 23 in Geneva, both want to avoid armed and uniformed foreign troops, Guterres said. “I call on all national, regional and international stakeholders to respect the provisions of the ceasefire agreement and ensure its implementation without delay,” Guterres said in the letter dated Tuesday. … Under the ceasefire, all foreign forces are to leave within three months. Khalifa Haftar, a warlord in eastern Libya, has enjoyed backing from Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. AFP

UNAMID Officially Ends Its Mandate despite Darfur Protests
Yesterday, the joint United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) released a press statement in which it confirmed its intention to, as of tomorrow January 1, gradually reduce the mission’s activity in a secure way and prepare its exit as planned. … The press release explained that the gradual withdrawal will take place in stages, over a six-month period, and will be in line with the United Nations’ regulations and guidelines. The withdrawal includes the removal of all UNAMID forces, vehicles, and equipment as well as the sequential closure of the UNAMID sites and offices “and handing them over to designated entities.” The planned exit of the UNAMID mission has stirred up many protests throughout the country as many fear that, with the mission leaving, security will decrease and violence and crime rates will go up. Thousands of displaced people from Kalma camp in South Darfur have delivered a memorandum to UNAMID to demand a reversal of the decision to end the mission. They have staged a weeks-long sit-in in front of the UNAMID office in the camp. Radio Dabanga

Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict Revives Bitter Disputes over Land
As rifle-toting militiamen fired celebratory rounds into the air, young men marched through the streets denouncing the former ruling party of Ethiopia’s Tigray region as “thieves.” The party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), is the target of military operations ordered by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, last year’s Nobel Peace laureate, that have reportedly left thousands dead since early November. But the impromptu parade this month in Alamata, a farming town in southern Tigray flanked by low, rolling mountains, was unrelated to any kind of battlefield victory. Rather it was to hail the release of Berhanu Belay Teferra, a self-described political prisoner under the TPLF whose pet issue, analysts warn, risks becoming Ethiopia’s next flashpoint. In 2018, Berhanu, 48, was detained by the TPLF for advocating that his homeland — located in an area known as Raya, of which Alamata is the biggest city — had no business falling under Tigrayan control. AFP

Aid Group Says Colleague ‘Murdered’ in Ethiopia’s Conflict
A Dutch aid group said Wednesday that one of its staff members was “murdered” at a refugee camp during the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, bringing the number of humanitarian workers killed during the nearly two months of unrest to five. ZOA International did not say when the 52-year-old staff member was killed at the Hitsats refugee camp, part of a network of camps hosting nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea close to the Eritrean border. The group did not immediately respond to questions, including about who it thinks is responsible for the death of its worker. ZOA International said it was “deeply shocked” by the killing in the conflict between Ethiopian forces and allied militias and forces of the Tigray region, whose leadership dominated the country’s government for nearly three decades before being sidelined by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since 2018. … While international aid reached at least two of the refugee camps last week, it is not clear whether Hitsats can yet be reached. AP

Tunisia President to Launch Dialogue to ‘Correct the Revolution’ Process
Tunisian President Kais Saied will launch in coming weeks a national dialogue that will include political parties and youth from all regions “to correct the revolution that has deviated from its goals a decade after its outbreak,” the presidency said on Wednesday. The presidency said the dialogue proposed by the powerful UGTT union seeks economic, social and political reforms as the country is witnessing a wave of protests against bad public services, widespread unemployment and corruption. Ten years ago, massive protests against poverty, marginalization and unemployment brought down the regime of the late President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The Tunisian revolution triggered the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Libya and Syria. Despite that, Tunisia is an example of peaceful transition in a region struggling elsewhere with violence and upheaval. Reuters

Ivory Coast Opposition Leader Affi Released 2 Months after Election-Spat Arrest
Ivory Coast opposition leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan was released on Wednesday after nearly two months in custody for creating a breakaway government after a disputed presidential election marred by violence. His release is seen as a key step in repairing relations between the opposition and President Alassane Ouattara’s ruling party after an Oct. 31 election that pulled hard at the seams of the West African nation’s fragile peace. … Government spokesman Sidi Toure confirmed the release. The opposition said Ouattara was breaking the law by seeking a third term, and boycotted the vote. Outtara said a change to the constitution in 2016 restarted his mandate and allowed him to run again. He won in a landslide. Dozens died in politically charged ethnic clashes around election time, raising fears of a re-run of a 2010-11 civil war in which 3,000 were killed. Reuters

Central African Republic: Opposition Groups Call for Elections to Be Scrapped
A powerful opposition coalition in Central African Republic on Wednesday called for the “cancellation, pure and simple” of weekend elections that were badly hampered by armed groups. … The twin elections, which the government described Tuesday as “credible, committed and popular,” have been seen as a key stability test for the CAR. … The frontrunner in the crowded field of 16 candidates for the presidency is the incumbent, Faustin Archange Touadera, who was elected in 2016 after a turbulent transition following the coup. But his government controls only about one-third of the country, with militia groups that emerged from the conflict in 2013 controlling the other two-thirds of the territory. … Fears about the rebels swept the city in the following days, although the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA said the advance had been stopped. In many areas, militia groups hampered the organisation of the elections and intimidated voters, according to local leaders and UN workers who asked not to be named. AFP

Millions of Children in Crisis Hotspots ‘on the Brink of Famine,’ Warns UNICEF
More than 10 million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel, South Sudan and Yemen will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday, warning that without urgent action, the numbers could rise further. … In Nigeria, over 800,000 children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition, including nearly 300,000 of severe acute malnutrition, at imminent risk of death. The situation is particularly alarming in the country’s north-east regions, which suffer from Boko Haram violence. In DRC and South Sudan, the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition could reach 3.3 million, at least 1 million with severe acute malnutrition; and 1.4 million, and 313,000, respectively. In Central Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, worsening conflict, displacement and climate shocks could take the total number of malnourished children to a staggering 2.9 million, including 890,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. UN News

African Countries Not Ready to Implement Free Trade from January
Most African countries are not ready to implement the terms of the African Continental Free Trade Area when the new zone comes into effect on January 1, according to the head of the trade bloc’s secretariat. Fifty four African nations have committed to join AfCFTA but of the 33 countries to have ratified the agreement so far many lack the customs procedures and infrastructure to facilitate tariff-free trade, said Wamkele Mene, secretary-general of the AfCFTA secretariat. “It’s going to take us a very long time,” said Mr Mene, a South African trade expert elected by the African Union last February. “If you don’t have the roads, if you don’t have the right equipment for customs authorities at the border to facilitate the fast and efficient transit of goods . . . if you don’t have the infrastructure, both hard and soft, it reduces the meaningfulness of this agreement.” Mr Mene insisted that the free trade area, which covers a population of 1.2bn and countries with combined output of $2.6tn, could still be transformative. FT

Notable African Deaths of 2020: From Jazz Legends to Football Heroes
As 2020 draws to a close, it is time to remember some of the iconic figures on the African continent who died this year. Here is a look back at 10 of those to whom we have said farewell from the worlds of football, science, music, business, medicine, politics, activism and the arts. BBC

Top African Songs of 2020 – Part 2
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hampered the work of most artists. The cancellation of shows and restriction of movement and social gatherings caused a major reduction in artists’ income, which for most comes from live performances. Despite this, African artists released some incredible music during the course of the year. This was a time to hunker down, get creative and learn more about the digital tools at their disposal. Difficult times have always shown that humans can rise above the challenges and come out stronger ­­– and the COVID-19 pandemic is showing just how resilient creatives can be. As always, Music In Africa has curated a two-part playlist divided into Africa’s five geographic regions with the help of our regional editors. The selected songs represent some of the best and most successful music releases that the continent saw in 2020. This quintessential playlist, perfect for your New Year’s Eve celebrations, is in no particular order and features some of Africa’s biggest rising stars. Enjoy! Music in Africa



Photo: Adam Jones