Africa Media Review for December 6, 2021

Gambia President Barrow Wins Re-Election in Post-Jammeh Vote
Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has secured his re-election with a comfortable margin over his opposition in a vote that set the bar for a new chapter in the small West African nation’s democracy. Barrow won about 53% of the vote in Saturday’s election, according to results from the Independent Election Commission announced Sunday. He easily beat out his main contender Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party who received about 28% of the vote. This was the country’s first presidential election in decades that did not include former dictator Yahya Jammeh, who now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after losing the 2016 election and refusing to accept defeat. The Chairman of the IEC, Alieu Mommar Njie, announced the results and prayed for peace to prevail in the nation of about 2.4 million people. … Nearly 860,000 Gambians came to vote on Saturday, a high number that shows a determination for many to exercise their democratic rights as demands for justice in the post-Jammeh era rise. Barrow emerged victorious in 2016 as the candidate for an opposition coalition that tested the 22-year rule of Jammeh. After initially agreeing to step down, Jammeh resisted, and a six-week crisis saw neighboring West African countries prepare to send in troops to stage a military intervention. Jammeh was forced into exile. AP

Spy Tool Was Deployed in State-Sponsored Hack of Ugandans
Apple warned two Ugandan journalists and an opposition figure last week that their iPhones may have been hacked by a state-sponsored surveillance entity, the targeted people said on Saturday, and at least one attack appeared to have employed spyware from an Israeli company blacklisted by the United States. The latest revelations add Uganda to the list of countries where journalists, human rights activists and lawyers have been targeted using the sophisticated Israeli-made spyware, known as Pegasus. The disclosure of the Apple warning notices to the three Ugandans came one day after reports that American diplomats in the East African nation also had their iPhones hacked with Pegasus. Those diplomats were the first American government officials known to have been targeted by the Pegasus tool, which is designed to sneak into a user’s phone and give the invader access to its contents without being detected. … In recent years, Uganda has tightened censorship and expanded its digital surveillance capabilities, particularly against opposition figures. … Both Mr. Mujuni and Mr. Mugume, the journalists [targeted], have extensively reported on these clampdowns and the tensions that gripped Uganda before and after the vote. The New York Times

South Africa Readies Hospitals as Omicron Variant Drives New COVID-19 Wave
South Africa is preparing its hospitals for more admissions, as the Omicron coronavirus variant pushes the country into a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday. Omicron was first detected in southern Africa last month and has triggered global alarm as governments fear another surge in infections. South Africa’s daily infections surged last week to more than 16,000 on Friday from roughly 2,300 on Monday. Ramaphosa said in a weekly newsletter that Omicron appeared to be dominating new cases in most of the country’s nine provinces and urged more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. “South Africa now has sufficient supplies of vaccines, … vaccination is essential for our economic recovery because as more people are vaccinated more areas of economic activity will be opened up,” he said. The government would soon convene the National Coronavirus Command Council to review the state of the pandemic and decide whether further measures are needed to keep people safe, Ramaphosa said. Scientists in South Africa and other countries are racing to establish whether Omicron is more contagious, causes more severe disease and is more resistant to existing vaccines. But some anecdotal accounts from doctors and experts in South Africa are reassuring, suggesting that many infections it causes are mild. Reuters

Early Clinical Pictures of Omicron Patients: Indications of Less Severe Disease but High Infection Rates among the Young
While researchers are warning that it might be too early to tell, doctors are seeing a significantly different clinical profile in their patients admitted for Covid in Tshwane hospitals – giving preliminary and early indications of less Covid pneumonia and less severe disease. Tshwane is significant as it is the epicentre of the current outbreak of infections as severe diseases are most often seen after a few weeks. Preliminary data and anecdotal evidence from Tshwane hospitals are showing indications that patients have less severe disease, research done by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) found. On Friday researchers at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed that they too were seeing a slightly different picture, but added that this could be the result of vaccination rather than a characteristic of the Omicron variant that is now dominant in Gauteng. The picture, Dr Fareed Abdullah points out, is “unusual” and shows a marked difference from what they saw in the first three waves. … “It is essential to recognise that the patient information presented here only represents the first two weeks of the Omicron wave in Tshwane. The clinical profile of admitted patients could change significantly over the next two weeks, by which time we can draw conclusions about the severity of disease with greater precision,” he explained. Daily Maverick

Tunisia’s UGTT Union Calls for Early Polls in Absence of Plan
Tunisia’s powerful UGTT union has called for early elections, saying it was concerned for the country’s democratic gains because of the president’s reluctance to announce a plan for political reforms. UGTT leader Noureddine Taboubi’s comments on Sunday, in a speech to thousands of his supporters, piled additional pressure on President Kais Saied, more than four months after he seized all political powers. “We supported July 25 because it was an opportunity to save the country and implement reforms … but we have become afraid for Tunisians’ democratic gains because of the excessive reluctance to announce a roadmap,” Taboubi said. He added that the president should call for a dialogue with political parties and national organisations that includes reviewing the electoral law and agreeing on early and transparent elections. The UGTT union, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, is a key political player in Tunisia. It counts more than one million members across the North African country. Saied suspended parliament and dismissed the government on July 25, installing a new prime minister and announcing he would rule by decree. Critics denounced his move as a coup. Al Jazeera

Sudan Group Condemns UN’s Call to Support Reinstated PM
A Sudanese pro-democracy group has condemned comments by the U.N. chief urging citizens to support a deal that reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, so the country can have “a peaceful transition towards a true democracy.” The Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which was at the forefront of the uprising against former autocrat Omar al-Bashir, rejected late Friday Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s comments as a “moral and political failure.” Hamdok was deposed as part of the Oct. 25 coup by military leaders that brought international criticism and disrupted Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy. He was reinstated last month amid international pressure in a deal that calls for an independent technocratic Cabinet under military oversight. The SPA said Guterres’s comments were seen as a “justification for violence” against anti-coup protesters, who vowed to continue their street demonstrations against the deal despite deadly violence by security forces. The agreement, signed on Nov. 21, has angered Sudan’s pro-democracy movement, which accuses Hamdok of allowing himself to serve as a fig leaf for continued military rule. … The SPA said it would continue peaceful protests until the establishment of a “full civilian” government to achieve the democratic transition. Hamdok’s reinstatement is the biggest concession made by the military since the coup but the takeover has left the country’s transition to democracy mired in crisis. AP

Aid Group Says Tribal Violence Kills 24 in Sudan’s Darfur
Tribal clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs killed at least 24 people Sunday in Sudan’s western Darfur region, an aid group said. It was the latest bout of intercommunal violence to rock the conflict-stricken region. The fighting grew out of a financial dispute late Saturday between two individuals in a camp for displaced persons in the Kreinik area in West Darfur province, said Adam Regal, the spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur. Regal said Arab militias known as janjaweed attacked the camp early Sunday, torching and looting properties. At least 35 others were wounded, he said. … Such clashes pose a significant challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional authorities to end decades-long rebellions in some areas like war-wrecked Darfur. Sudan is in the midst of a fragile democratic transition since a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. AP

At Least 30 Civilians Reported Killed in Mali Truck Attack
Gunmen attacked a truck carrying civilians in central Mali, killing at least 31 people, a local official said Saturday. The mayor of Bandiagara, Housseini Saye, said the truck was carrying about 50 civilians when the identified gunmen attacked the vehicle Friday about 10 kilometers outside the town. “The shooting caused the truck to catch fire, and 31 people died, most of them burned to death,” said the mayor, who is also a member of Mali’s transitional parliament. “There were several injured and two missing.” The attack has not been claimed, but it bears the mark of local armed groups linked to al-Qaida. AP

‘Ferocious’ Niger Battle Leaves Dozens of Soldiers and Militants Dead
At least 12 soldiers and “dozens of terrorists” have been killed in a battle in western Niger, the defence ministry says, in the conflict-wracked “three borders” zone. Another eight soldiers were wounded in the clash with “hundreds of armed terrorists” 5km (three miles) from Fantio, the ministry statement on Sunday said. Several motorbikes used by the attackers had been destroyed and communications equipment recovered, the statement added. The soldiers had “defended themselves ferociously,” killing dozens of the attackers before being overwhelmed by their numbers. Reinforcements from nearby positions and air support had finally forced the enemy to retreat. Fantio is a small rural community in the Tera district of Tillaberio region, regularly targeted by jihadist groups affiliated with al-Qaida or Islamic State. Five villagers were killed and two others seriously wounded in an attack there in May during the Muslim festival of Eid at the end of Ramadan, the ministry said. In late June two civilians – a school director and a retired police inspector – were killed during another raid, during which their killers also stole livestock. Reuters

Congo Ousts Mining Leader in a Cloud of Corruption Claims
The chairman of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s state mining company was ousted on Friday after longtime allegations that billions of dollars in revenue had gone missing, a move officials said was intended to fight corruption as the country becomes increasingly important in the global clean energy revolution. Albert Yuma Mulimbi, the chairman of the company since 2010, was replaced by President Felix Tshisekedi of Congo just days after The New York Times published an article revealing new allegations against Mr. Yuma. The government agency, known as Gécamines, controls production of metals such as cobalt and copper, crucial resources in the push to expand electric vehicles and other renewables. Without his chairmanship, Mr. Yuma will no longer have a significant role in partnering with international companies over major mining deals. “It is hard to underestimate the importance of this development — it is a significant step in the fight against corruption in Congo,” said J. Peter Pham, who until January served as a senior Central Africa official with the U.S. State Department. The New York Times

Somalia: Security Council Adopts Resolution to Keep Pirates at Bay
The Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in the country illustrates that joint counter-piracy efforts have resulted in a steady decline in attacks and hijackings since 2011. However, although piracy off the coast of Somalia has been “repressed,” the ongoing threat of resurgence remains. As such – under Chapter VII of the Charter, which provides for enforcement action – the Security Council adopted Resolution 2608, which, among other things, condemns piracy and armed robbery at sea off the Somali coast, underscoring that it exacerbates instability by introducing “illicit cash that fuels crime, corruption and terrorism.” Through its resolution, ambassadors said that investigations and prosecutions must continue for all who “plan, organize, illicitly finance or profit from pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia.” The Somali authorities were called upon to put in place mechanisms to safely return effects seized by pirates and to patrol the coastal waters to prevent and suppress future acts of armed robbery at sea. At the same time, they were requested to bring to justice those using Somali territory to “plan, facilitate, or undertake criminal acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.” UN News

How Space Is Being Used to Track South Africa’s Critically Endangered Ecosystem
Conservationists in South Africa have developed a new app that will help them to monitor South Africa’s unique renosterveld landscapes using satellite images to detect when farmers are illegally encroaching into this critically endangered ecosystem. The renosterveld means rhino fields. It’s a land of rolling hills stretching across the Western Cape’s Overberg and Swartland regions, and was once covered with grasses and shrubs and populated with large mammals like black rhinos. But after many decades of farming, the natural vegetation has all but disappeared under the plough to be replaced with crops like wheat and barley. Only an estimated five percent is left — mostly small fragments persisting on privately owned farms. Those that do remain are home to diverse life, especially flowers. But they too are threatened. RFI