Africa Media Review for February 1, 2021

Spike in Militant Islamist Violence in Africa Underscores Shifting Security Landscape
There was a 43-percent spike in militant Islamist group violence in Africa in 2020. The 4,958 reported events linked to these groups represents a record level of violence, continuing an upward pattern seen since 2016. Reported fatalities linked to African militant Islamist groups rose by a third in 2020 over the previous year, to an estimated 13,059 deaths. Militant Islamist violence remains largely concentrated in five theaters, each comprising distinct actors and challenges: Somalia, the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, Mozambique, and Egypt. All but Egypt experienced sharp increases in violence in 2020. Militant Islamist activity in Africa continues to be driven by locally based groups, reflecting context-specific realities in each theater rather than a monolithic threat across the continent. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Somali Forces End Jihadist Siege of Mogadishu Hotel, 5 Dead
At least five people have died in the attack on a Mogadishu hotel by Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels that was ended early Monday by security forces, according to the Somali police force. The siege of the Afrik hotel ended after a gun battle that lasted for more than eight hours, and all four rebel attackers were killed, Somali police spokesman Sadiq Adan Ali said. The rebels exploded hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades in their attempt to repulse the police forces who were closing in on them, he said. In addition to those killed, 15 people were injured and have been hospitalized, health authorities said. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack through their Andalus radio and Somalimemo website. Among the dead are Gen. Mohamed Nur Galal, a well-known retired army veteran who lived in the hotel. Another general and more than 100 civilians were rescued from the hotel, which is near the strategic K-4 junction on the road to the capital city’s international airport, said Ali. AP

As Virus Variants Spread, ‘No One Is Safe until Everyone Is Safe’
As a dangerous variant of the coronavirus first discovered in South Africa sickens and kills thousands across the country, Jan Matsena has shown up every day to stock the shelves at a Cape Town supermarket, terrified that he, too, will catch it. A neighbor died in December, then a co-worker in January. Now Mr. Matsena is waiting for a vaccine so he can return home to his township and hold his baby daughter again. But in South Africa, the country hit hardest so far by the variant, inoculations have not yet started. “The wait for this vaccine has been long, long now,” said Mr. Matsena, a first-time father who has been living away from his family for fear of exposing them. “People are passing away, people are losing jobs. It’s trauma.” While more than 90 million people worldwide have been vaccinated, only 25 in all of sub-Saharan Africa, a region of about one billion people, have been given doses outside of drug trials, according to the World Health Organization. … The more the virus spreads, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the greater chance it has to continue to mutate in ways that put the whole world at risk. The New York Times

Uganda’s Opposition, International Observers Continue to Question Election Results
The fallout from this month’s hotly contested Uganda election is shaking the nation and drawing international rebuke. The national electoral commission declared President Yoweri Museveni the winner of a sixth term with 58% of the vote. But Robert Kyagulanyi, a politician, singer and the main opposition candidate — commonly known by his stage name, Bobi Wine — said the vote was corrupted by harassment of his supporters and ballot box stuffing. Several opposition candidates agree with Wine and are calling for national defiance of Museveni’s government. Wine was put under de facto house arrest for 12 days after the election but still marshaled international support. Human rights groups and foreign governments — including the United States — slammed the government for shutting down the internet during the election and banning outside voting observers. VOA

Time Running Out on Somalia’s Troubled Vote as Citizens Sigh
As Somalia marks three decades since a dictator fell and chaos engulfed the country, the government is set to hold a troubled national election. Or is it? Two regional states refuse to take part, and time is running out before the Feb. 8 date when mandates expire. A parliament resolution allows President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and lawmakers to remain in office, but going beyond Feb. 8 brings “an unpredictable political situation in a country where we certainly don’t need any more of that,” United Nations special representative James Swan said this week. Amid the campaign billboards and speeches in the capital, Mogadishu, is a sense of frustration as people are urged to support candidates but once again cannot directly take part. … Jubbaland and Puntland finally appointed electoral commissioners late this week, a sign of progress. “No partial elections or parallel processes,” the U.S. Embassy said as it encouraged political leaders to meet on remaining issues. On Saturday, Somalia said the president assured the international community he was willing to “fulfill free, fair and transparent elections.” AP

Libya’s Future in Balance in UN-Backed Leadership Vote
Delegates from Libya’s opposing sides kick off a five-day meeting on Monday to choose an interim prime minister and a three-person presidency council, in a crucial bid to reunite the troubled oil-rich country before an election in December. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, including envoys from around Libya, meets under U.N. mediation in an undisclosed site outside Geneva in hopes of stabilizing a largely lawless country since Moammar Gadhafi’s fall and killing in 2011. The gathering, which will draw from an agreed list of candidates, caps a process begun in Berlin in January 2020 for a North African country mired in international meddling and pockets of violence despite a holding cease-fire. The voting process take place under the mediation of the U.N. secretary-general’s acting special representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams. The interim authority to be chosen will seek to rebuild state institutions and lead Libya to a national election on Dec. 24. … Twenty-four candidates are running for the presidential council posts. AP

US Calls on Russia, Turkey, UAE to Halt Libya Intervention
The United States called on Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday to immediately halt their military interventions in Libya as demanded in a cease-fire agreement, and accept Libyan sovereignty as it moves to unify its government, hold elections and end years of fighting. … Richard Mills spoke after acting U.N. envoy Stephanie Williams said “blatant foreign interference continues,” pointing to flights carrying military cargo continuing to both sides and “undermining” the cease-fire agreement. She called for all foreign fighters and mercenaries who were supposed to leave Libya by Jan. 23 to leave now. … “External actors who have militarily intervened in this conflict have wholly and briefly ignored Libyans’ demands,” he said. “We call on all external parties, to include Russia, Turkey, and the UAE, to accept Libyan sovereignty and immediately cease all military intervention in Libya.” AP

Fugitive Tigray Leader Reportedly Speaks Out after Months
The fugitive leader of Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region has reportedly made his first public comments in three months, urging the international community to investigate alleged “genocide” and other abuses by forces including those from neighboring Eritrea. It was not immediately possible to verify the audio comments by Debretsion Gebremichael posted late Saturday by Tigray-allied media outlet Dimtsi Weyane. He has been on the run since shortly after fighting broke out in early November between Ethiopian and allied forces and those of the Tigray region who had dominated the country’s government for nearly three decades. But the comments seemed to note the recent killings of other fugitive Tigray leaders. “Many have paid and many are continuing to pay the ultimate sacrifice,” Debretsion said. He urged Tigray residents to “continue the struggle” and vowed to do the same against those who are “working with all their might to destroy our existence and identity.” … The Tigray conflict continues largely in shadow. Some communications links are severed, residents are scared to give details by phone and almost all journalists are blocked. Thousands of people have died. AP

Sudan: Hunger Grips Thousands Displaced by Inter-Communal Violence in Darfur
The World Food Program is scaling up food assistance to tens of thousands of people displaced by intercommunal violence in Sudan’s explosive Darfur region. United Nations agencies say an estimated 250 people have been killed and more than 100,000 forced to flee their homes following violent clashes between the Arab and Massalit tribes in mid-January in West and South Darfur. The U.N.s World Food Program reports around 70,000 of the displaced are gathered in more than 70 centers across El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. Agency spokesman Tomson Phiri says people are in a weakened condition, many suffering from moderate or acute malnutrition. He says the WFP has begun an emergency food distribution program, which so far has managed to reach 40,000 people in 30 of these centers. … “Even a momentary burst of violent disruption of livelihood activities, can have a long-lasting impact,” said Phiri. “If a planting or a harvesting period is missed, it may not be resumed. If livestock cannot be moved to pasture or water, they may not survive.” VOA

Central African Republic: 200,000 Displaced in Less Than Two Months
Violence and insecurity related to the recent elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced more than 200,000 people to flee their homes in less than two months, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday, warning tens of thousands are facing dire living conditions. More than half are displaced within the country, but 92,000 people have crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while more than 13,200 are now in Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of the Congo. UNHCR Spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov, said the continuing volatility has hampered humanitarian response, making it more difficult to access people displaced inside the CAR. He added that the main road used to bring supplies has also been forced shut. “Armed groups are reportedly present in the Batangafo and Bria sites where displaced communities are sheltering, in violation of the humanitarian and civilian nature of those sites,” said Mr. Chershirkov, speaking during the bi-weekly UN briefing in Geneva. UN News

Seven Killed, 28 Injured as Angolan Police Repress Protest
Seven people were killed and 28 others injured at the weekend after Angolan police foiled a protest in Lunda Norte province, 656 km north of the country’s capital Luanda. The incident took place in Cafunfu village, Cuango municipality. Police said in a statement on Saturday that it foiled an armed rebellion organised by the Lunda Tchokwe Protectorate Movement’s (LTPM), which resulted in the death of some demonstrators. They said the demonstrators wanted to attack a police station in order to raise the movement’s flag. LTPM’s head José Mateus Zecamutchima denied that it was an armed rebellion, saying they held a peaceful and orderly demonstration aimed urging the government to meet them to dicsuss the region’s autonomy. … LTPM is a political group set up in 2007. It is seeking administrative and financial autonomy of the former Tchokwe Kingdom, which comprises provinces of Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul, Moxico and Kuando Kubango. The EastAfrican

US Africa Command Senior Leaders Seek to Strengthen Partnership with African Countries
A US Africa Command delegation arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 27 January following a historic visit to Sudan. The Congo delegation is led by US Africa Command’s Deputy for Civil-Military Engagement, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Director of Intelligence, Rear Admiral Heidi Berg. The focus of the visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be to discuss continued cooperation and engagements, security and stability efforts, and working together to further professionalize the DRC military and strengthen ties. Young and Berg will meet with US Ambassador to the DRC, Mike Hammer, and top level DRC government and military officials. … While in Sudan, discussions focused on common areas of concern including countering terrorism, fielding professional militaries, military intelligence collaboration and cooperation, maritime domain awareness, border and maritime security, and the importance of accountability and transparency. defenceWeb

Ghana Tightens Restrictions as Virus Cases Climb
Ghana has reimposed a ban on social gatherings as the number of Covid-19 cases spiral in the West African nation, the president announced on Sunday. Schools reopened in January after a 10-month closure, but President Nana Akufo-Addo said a return to stricter measures was needed. “Until further notice, funerals, weddings, concerts, theatrical performances, and parties are banned,” he said in a televised speech. Justifying the restrictions, Akufo-Addo said: “Our hospitals have become full, and we have had to reactivate our isolation centres.” The new measures on social gatherings come as the average daily rates of infection is at 700, compared to 200 two weeks ago. Land and sea borders are closed since March, while beaches, night clubs, cinemas, and pubs continue to be shut. AFP

Presidency Urges Nigerians to Comply with COVID-19 Protocols to Avoid Lockdown
As Nigeria continues to record relatively high cases of the COVID-19 infection, the presidency has warned against violations of safety guidelines issued to curtail the spread of the virus. … The statement indicated that the Buhari administration is reluctant to lock down the country because many citizens will not have food on the table without venturing out for their day-to-day business. … “Nigerians have come a long way from the dreaded lockdown and the administration is unhappy about any prospects of bringing it back as many citizens will not have food on the table without venturing out on a day-to-day business.” He said the COVID-19 pandemic is a threat to the population and the national economy. … As of Saturday night, the number of people infected with COVID-19 stood at 130,557 after 1,883 new cases – one of the highest daily figures the country has witnessed – were reported in 23 states across the nation on Saturday. Premium Times

African Union Launches Platform to Track Threats against African Journalists
Threats to African journalists are nothing new, but the African Union is launching a website to track and monitor threats against them, in a bid to improve protections for media workers and support the right to freedom of expression.  Six African journalists were killed in 2020, according to the International Federation of Journalists. Countless more were threatened, arrested, harassed, and censored, according to several media freedom and human rights groups.  That, the African Union is now saying, has to stop. And to do that, they’re making use of journalists’ most powerful tool: facts. A new AU website launched Friday and will now track threats to African journalists. … The head of the AU African Governance Architecture Secretariat, Salah Hammad, says the AU draws a direct line between honest journalism and robust, peaceful societies. “So when we are talking about the rights of people, the rights of human and people’s rights in Africa, we cannot really exclude media freedom as well as a right to expression and right to freedom of expression as well as a right to information,” he said. VOA