Africa Media Review for December 9, 2021

Burkina Faso PM Resigns Following Protests over Jihadist Violence
Burkina Faso’s premier and government resigned Wednesday as protests mounted against officials’ inability to combat a wave of jihadist attacks that have killed thousands. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who had already changed his military leadership over the security crisis, accepted Prime Minister Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire’s resignation, according to a presidential decree. The resignation of a prime minister requires the resignation of the entire government, according to Burkina Faso law. After his resignation, Dabire called on citizens to “support the president… and the new executive that will be put in place” in a post on his Facebook page. “I remain convinced that it is through unity of action that we will be able to meet the challenges our country and our people are facing,” he said. … Jihadist attacks have grown increasingly regular and deadly in Burkina Faso since 2015, killing 2,000 people and displacing 1.4 million from their homes. Groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group have plagued the landlocked Sahel nation since 2015. … In mid-November, at least 57 people, 53 of them gendarmes, were killed in an attack on a police post in the country’s north. AFP

UN: IED Kills 7 Togolese Peacekeepers in Mali
Seven peacekeepers from the West African nation of Togo were killed Wednesday when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in central Mali, according to the United Nations. U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters that three other Togolese peacekeepers were seriously injured in the explosion in the Bandiagara region. He said the peacekeepers were part of a logistics convoy traveling between the towns of Douentza and Sevare. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Togo contributes about 930 personnel to the 16,000-strong U.N. force in Mali, known as the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, or MINUSMA. Dujarric said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attack and called on Malian authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. In Mali’s capital, Bamako, MINUSMA chief El-Ghassim Wane also condemned the attack and said it could constitute a war crime in accordance with international law. The peacekeeping force was established in 2013 to help stabilize Mali following a coup and a takeover of the north by Islamist militant groups. VOA

Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict Threatens to Break Country Apart
After more than a year of war in Tigray, Ethiopia’s ethnic divides now run deeper than ever. This will make it hard for the country to heal if peace ever comes. Rights groups and the United Nations have recorded wide-ranging ethnically-motivated atrocities — from plundering and torture to massacres and gang-rapes — carried out by all parties involved in the Tigray conflict, including Ethiopian federal forces, Eritrea’s Defense Force, Amhara special forces, and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters. … “Abiy’s use of hate speech, calling Tigrayans ‘terrorists’ and ‘weeds that need to be pulled’ has only served to drive the Tigrayan people, who had real doubts about [TPLF] leadership, to the TPLF as essentially the last line of defense for this entire population,” [Atlantic Council researcher Cameron Hudson] told DW. … A number of conflict experts, including Hudson, believe Ethiopia will need to initially establish a transitional multi-ethnic and ethnically-balanced government. In the longer term, it is thought the country needs to set up a national dialogue to examine the different visions of Ethiopia and agree on the state’s fundamental orientation. “The last year has created such new tension and such new rifts,” said Hudson. Now there needs to be “some kind of broad-based grassroots conversation about how the country can be not just governed, but how it can be constructed in a way that allows for ethnicity to be identified without it being the defining feature of Ethiopian political life.” DW

Twitter Removes Accounts Linked to [Harassment of Human Rights Group in Tanzania]
… Twitter has also detailed a campaign it discovered in Tanzania, which used copyright complaints to harass members and supporters of the FichuaTanzania human rights group. … the operation linked to Tanzania appears to have been much more sophisticated [than a separate Chinese campaign], although it involved a comparatively smaller number of 268 accounts. In a Twitter thread, a Stanford Internet Observatory researcher who worked on the report, Shelby Grossman, explained that the pro-government network would take anti-government content posted by activists, republish it on an external website with a date that predated the tweet, and then report the tweet to Twitter on copyright grounds to have it removed. “The tactic sometimes worked,” Grossman writes, “Twitter suspended 2 activist accounts, though both were ultimately reinstated.” But it’s a difficult situation for the activists to end up in, since countering the copyright complaint might compromise the source of the anti-government material. The Verge

Adama Barrow’s Re-Election and the Gambia’s Long Walk to Justice
Adama Barrow was declared this week the winner of The Gambia’s closely watched presidential election, securing a second five-year term in office. The vote was seen as a test of democratic stability for the small country, five years after a regional peacekeeping mission forced longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh out of The Gambia after he refused to concede defeat to Barrow. But the incumbent’s new mandate also comes with a renewed responsibility to the victims of human rights violations committed during his predecessor’s 22 years in office. The election took place just days before a highly anticipated report recommended the government prosecute a number of officials for crimes allegedly committed during Jammeh’s era. “One thing we want to assure, there will be justice and reconciliation, reparation – it will all happen but we have to be patient,” Barrow said in his first news conference after Saturday’s election. … In late November, the [Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC)]’s report was delivered to Barrow, who now has six months to decide whether to act on it. Neither the 14,000-page document, nor the names of the alleged perpetrators, have been made public. To “forgive and forget with impunity the violations and abuses … would not only undermine reconciliation but would also constitute a massive and egregious cover-up of the crimes committed,” the commission said in a statement. Al Jazeera

Obasanjo Visits Nairobi as Ethiopia Mediation Proves Elusive
African Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday visited Nairobi as part of continued shuttle diplomacy over conflicts in the region. Obasanjo, a former Nigerian President, was in Nairobi in what State House said was to discuss several “subjects of importance to Kenya, the region and the African continent.” Appointed back in September by the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, his job description indicated that he “will intensify engagements with all relevant political actors and stakeholders in the region towards entrenching durable peace and stability within the Horn of Africa.“ But his biggest headache has been how to convince parties in Ethiopia to have dialogue. As he travelled to Nairobi, Ethiopians showed little sign of agreeing to dialogue. The “courtesy call” in Nairobi came as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced he was leaving the battlefront and going back to office “following successful completion of the first phase of ‘Operation for National Unity in Diversity,’” his Office announced on Wednesday. That operation, which lasted about two weeks, had seen Abiy appear on the frontline as the Ethiopian National Defence Forces pummeled the TPLF. The government claimed more victories over the TPLF and announced that it has retaken towns in Amhara and Afar regions from the rebels. The EastAfrican

UN Says Large Quantities of Food Looted in Northern Ethiopia
Large quantities of U.N. food earmarked for malnourished people in northern Ethiopia have been looted from warehouses, reportedly by elements of Tigrayan forces and the local population, the United Nations said Wednesday. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the small-scale theft of food from warehouses in the town of Kombolcha in the Amhara region escalated to mass looting of warehouses across the Kombolcha area in recent days. In addition, he said three U.N. World Food Program trucks used for humanitarian operations were commandeered by military personnel for their own use on Tuesday and Wednesday. Dujarric said the exact amount of food that was stolen from the warehouses is still being determined, but it included nutritional items for malnourished children. … “We strongly condemn all of these incidents and reiterate our calls to all parties to the conflict to respect and protect humanitarian relief personnel and objects, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law,” he said. “It is prohibited to attack, destroy, misappropriate, or loot relief supplies, installations, materials, units or vehicles.” AP

Nigerian Leader ‘Distressed’ after 23 Travelers Slain on Bus
At least 23 travelers have been killed in northwest Nigeria in an attack by the same armed groups blamed for killing thousands this year in Africa’s most populous country. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said he is “very distressed” over the attack that occurred Monday though details of the incident emerged only on Wednesday. It is the latest in a cycle of violence targeting rural communities and travelers along highways in the northwest and central parts of the West African nation. Sokoto state governor Aminu Tambuwal said that the gunmen opened fire at a bus conveying the travelers along a route notorious for such attacks in the Isa area of the state. Twenty-three of the travelers died of fire burns while six others were injured, he said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but blame quickly fell on assailants who have killed at least 2,500 people in the northwest and central states in the first half of 2021, according to data from the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. AP

Africa CDC: Nations Might Turn to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates
Only six African countries have met the global target of vaccinating 40% of their populations against COVID-19 by the end of this year, and “this is simply dangerous and untenable,” a WHO immunization official, Richard Mihigo, told reporters on Thursday. Some countries including Zimbabwe and Ghana have turned to vaccine mandates for public employees and others, not without objections. Kenya’s plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations for access to government services starting later this month has brought criticism. African nations have procured 431 million vaccine doses so far and administered 245 million, the Africa CDC’s Nkengasong said, adding that “you can’t even talk of a booster when you have people who haven’t received their first dose.” The African continent is now receiving around 20 million vaccine doses a week, an encouraging trend, the WHO’s Mihigo said, “but it is very important that these donations come with shelf life” instead of a rapidly looming expiration date. Some countries, unable to distribute them in time, have handed back doses or destroyed them. AP

Coronavirus Cases Are Rising among Children in South African Hospitals
The children had gone to the hospital for various reasons: One had jaundice, another malaria. A third had a broken bone. But once they were admitted, they all tested positive for the coronavirus, a worrying trend in South African hospitals that hints at how transmissible the new variant, Omicron, may be. The doctors in the children’s wards of two large hospitals in Johannesburg say they have not seen a spike in admissions, and they still do not know whether the children have Omicron. But the increase in the number of those who test positive after coming in may provide a glimpse into the behavior of the heavily mutated variant that was discovered just last month, and about which little is known. “Our suspicion is that Covid positivity rates in the community setting are very, very high at the moment and increasing,” said Dr. Gary Reubenson, a pediatrician at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg. Young children under 12 are not yet eligible for Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa, which also leaves them more vulnerable. The New York Times

Congo an Economic ‘Bright Spot’ in Africa, Says IMF Chief
Democratic Republic of Congo is a rare “bright spot” in Africa’s economic performance as high commodity prices and government reform improve finances, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday. Congo’s economy is expected to grow 5.4% this year and 6.4% in 2022, Kristalina Georgieva told a news conference in Kinshasa after meeting Congo President Felix Tshisekedi. That outpaces total Sub-Saharan African growth of 3.7% this year and 3.8% in 2022. Congo “benefits from higher commodity prices but above all benefits from the reforms that the president and the government have been pursuing,” Georgieva said. The country is Africa’s top producer of copper and the world’s leading miner of cobalt, used in the making of electric car batteries. But chronic corruption, mismanagement and conflict have stunted output and left the vast majority of the country in poverty. Tshisekedi, in power since 2019, has tried to turn the tide of spiralling inflation and depleted forex reserves under his predecessor Joseph Kabila. Learn how our planned global investment of $150+ billion in leading-edge memory manufacturing over 10 years will help meet 2030-era demand. Reforms include greater independence of the central bank and more efficient revenue collection. Congo has published old mining contracts that were previously secret, massively increased its foreign reserves and replaced the board of both the Central Bank and the state mining company Gecamines. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones