Africa Media Review for February 11, 2021

Uganda: Unease after Alleged Election Abductions
Concern is rising in Uganda over the alleged forced disappearances of dissidents across the country in the lead-up to and following last month’s general election. Members of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party say they have been especially targeted. NUP candidate Bobi Wine was defeated in the January 14 election, with incumbent President Yoweri Museveni taking 58.64% of the vote to win a sixth term in office after 35 years of rule. Wine has challenged the outcome of the elections in court, accusing Museveni of voter fraud. Plain-clothed members of Uganda’s defense forces have been blamed for the abductions, most of which took place at night. In an address to his supporters from his home over the weekend, Wine estimated that over 3,000 NUP party members had been taken by authorities. The families of those kidnapped say the abductees were beaten before being forced into vehicles and driven away. … Political activist and former university lecturer Stella Nyanzi, a prominent Museveni critic, has meanwhile fled Uganda with her children and sought asylum in Kenya. DW

‘We’ll Be Left without Families’: Fear in Ethiopia’s Tigray
As soldiers from Eritrea looted the border town of Rama in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, one home became a dispensary for frightened residents seeking medicine in the midst of war. In return, they shared details of killings in nearby communities. An American nurse visiting her family listened in shock. … Rare witness accounts are illuminating the toll of the shadowy conflict in Tigray, which is largely cut off from the world as fighting enters a fourth month in a region of 6 million people. Ethiopian forces and allied fighters pursue the fugitive former leaders of Tigray who long dominated Ethiopia’s government. Each side sees the other as illegitimate after last year’s national elections were delayed and Tigray defiantly held its own. Soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, a secretive nation and enemy of the former Tigray leaders, are deeply involved, though Ethiopia and Eritrea deny their presence. The European Union this week joined the United States in urging Eritrea to withdraw its forces, asserting they are “reportedly committing atrocities and exacerbating ethnic violence.” AP

Sudan’s New Cabinet Sworn in Amid Protests over Dire Economy
Sudan on Wednesday swore in a new Cabinet that includes rebel ministers as part of a power-sharing deal that transitional authorities struck last year with a rebel alliance. The swearing-in ceremony took place amid violent protests in several Sudanese cities over dire economic conditions, forcing authorities to impose a curfew and close schools temporarily. The new ministers were sworn in in the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling Sovereign Council. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok attended. It was the second Cabinet to be named since the military ousted autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 following mass pro-democracy protests. … Sudan’s government faces towering challenges, including a huge budget deficit and widespread shortages of essential goods and soaring prices of bread and other staples. … That rapidly deteriorating economic conditions triggered protests in recent weeks in Khartoum and other cities across the country. AP

Libya: Security Council Urges Interim Leadership to Prepare for December Polls
The UN Security Council on Tuesday called on the new interim leadership of Libya to swiftly form an inclusive Government and make necessary preparations for December’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Last week, the 74-members of the UN-led Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) chose an interim Prime Minister and President of its new executive council, charged with leading the country to elections, planned for 24 December this year. … The 15-member Council called on all parties to implement the October 2020 ceasefire agreement in full, urging UN Member States “to respect and support the full implementation of the agreement, including through the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without further delay.” They also called for full compliance with the Council-imposed arms embargo by all Member States, in accordance with the relevant resolutions. The Security Council further underlined the importance of a credible and effective Libyan-led Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism under the auspices of the UN, and welcomed the swift deployment of an advance team to Libya. It added that it looked forward to receiving proposals on the tasks and scale of the mechanism from the UN Secretary-General. UN News

Libya Rescues over 1,500 Migrants off Coast in a Week
Libya has rescued more than 1,500 would-be migrants off its west coast in the past week, a non-governmental organisation said. “The Libyan coastguard has conducted several rescue operations from a week ago until (Wednesday) and rescued about 1,500 people,” Adel al-Idrissi from the International Rescue Committee said. On Wednesday alone, 240 African migrants were rescued from two boats off the port city of Al-Khums, said Lieutenant-Colonel Mohammed Abdel Aali of the coastguard. “We encountered difficulties in getting the (migrants from the first boat) on board,” but the second group “showed less opposition,” he said. Migrants intercepted off the Libyan coast object to being returned to the country, preferring to wait for humanitarian rescue ships. … More than 1,200 migrants and asylum-seekers died while crossing the Mediterranean in 2020, according to the International Organization for Migration. AFP

Somalia Opposition Presidential Candidates Seek Truce
Somalia’s opposition groups are calling for an urgent meeting with President Mohamed Farmaajo and other stakeholders in an attempt to resolve the electoral impasse. But the grouping, known as the Council of Presidential Candidates, wants the conference to be held on their terms including that President Farmaajo attends as a candidate and not as a Head of State. The council on Wednesday said there was a need to resolve outstanding issues from the September 2020 electoral agreement, known as the Dhusamareb III Agreement. Led by former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, his successor President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and ex-Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and several others, they said such a meeting should be in Mogadishu, not elsewhere. By that, they were digging in on Farmaajo’s own invitation which on Tuesday asked for a meeting with the five federal state presidents but in the city of Garowe in Puntland on February 15. Nation

What Is Delaying Somalia’s Elections?
… On Saturday, President Farmaajo and the leaders of the country’s federal states failed to break a deadlock over how to proceed with elections. Farmaajo accused the regional leaders over the impasse, but opposition groups said they would no longer recognise his authority following the expiration of his term on Monday. … Somalia, a country of 10 million people, has a unique electoral system. Clan elders indirectly choose the members of the Lower House, while the five federal states elect the members of the Upper House. Members of both houses pick a president, who then nominates a prime minister, who then selects a cabinet. … In September, Farmaajo met leaders from four of the country’s five federal states in the central city of Dhuusamareeb and reached an agreement that would have paved the way for an indirect election. … But the agreement did not hold for long. Two federal state leaders of Jubaland and Puntland, accused the president of reneging on the deal and packing the election boards with his allies – a claim Farmaajo denied. … Washington said the gridlock has led to a lack of progress in the fight against al-Shabab, which continues to carry out attacks in the country. Al Jazeera

Uganda Eases Social Media Curbs, but Facebook Still Off
Ugandan authorities on Wednesday lifted restrictions on social networks imposed ahead of a presidential election last month, but Facebook remains blocked in the East African country. … Many Ugandans reported receiving messages from a service provider saying they are now authorized to use social media sites not including Facebook. Officials did not explain why Facebook is still restricted, but a senior government official told The Associated Press there are talks between the company and Uganda’s information ministry. … Uganda’s government reacted to Facebook’s removal of some accounts linked to the president’s reelection campaign by blocking access to the network for most Ugandans. … Three days ahead of voting, Facebook said it had removed a network of accounts and pages that “used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in groups to make them appear more popular than they were.” The network was linked to a government ministry, it said. AP

Africa Not ‘Walking Away’ from AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC Says
The African Union’s disease control body said on Thursday that it was not “walking away” from AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, after trial data showed it had greatly reduced efficacy against the coronavirus variant dominant in South Africa. African countries are due to receive 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot this year under an AU vaccine plan. Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong told a news conference that more work needed to be done to understand how the vaccine worked against the more contagious 501Y.V2 variant first identified in South Africa late last year. South Africa has paused the rollout of AstraZeneca shots to health workers and said on Wednesday it could seek to sell or swap doses of the vaccine. Nkengasong added that six countries other than South Africa had reported the presence of the variant. This has alarmed health experts who have raised concerns about its ability to potentially evade the immune response generated by prior exposure to the coronavirus or vaccines. The six countries are Botswana, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia. Reuters

More African Nations Seen Tapping G-20 Debt Plan on Revenue Drop
The economic damage wrought by the coronavirus will probably lead more African nations to seek debt restructuring, the head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said. Chad last month became the first state in Africa to request relief under a Group of 20 initiative to help countries cope with the economic fallout from the pandemic. Ethiopia applied two days later, followed by Zambia, which last year became the first African country to default on its debt since the onset of the pandemic. With government revenue taking strain because of the slowdown in economic growth, some countries are less equipped to meet the demands of their citizens, Uneca Executive Secretary Vera Songwe said in an interview. … “There probably will be more countries that will opt for the G-20 debt framework,” because they need additional fiscal space to purchase vaccines, she said. Angola and the Republic of Congo are particularly vulnerable to distress because they have high debt levels, severe economic recessions and borrowed significant amounts from China using resource-backed loans, Verisk Maplecroft said in a research note last week. Bloomberg

Child Soldiers: The Forgotten Trauma of Abducted Children
Ahead of International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, on Friday 12 February, experts say the issue of treating the psychological trauma of children abducted and forced to wage war is still not receiving the attention it needs. “In order for children who were used by armed groups to rebuild their lives and create a future for themselves, they must receive psychosocial support and adequate treatment,” says Andrea Suley, the UN Children’s Fund representative in South Sudan. Ugandan activist Victor Ochen knows this all too well — his brother was abducted by Dominic Ongwen, a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). “My own brother was abducted during an attack that was commanded by Ongwen, and up to now, he has not come back,” Victor Ochen told the Africa Calling podcast. Ongwen was found guilty last week of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The charges against him included forcibly recruiting child soldiers. RFI



Photo: Adam Jones