Africa Media Review for February 11, 2022

Failed Coup Puts Spotlight Back on Guinea-Bissau’s Role in Cocaine Trade
In October, President Umaro Sissoco Embalo told French radio that drug trafficking and corruption were over in Guinea-Bissau, a country that has struggled to shake off its reputation as a “narco state” of West Africa. Those words rang hollow a few months later. Fierce gunfire interrupted a cabinet meeting Embalo was presiding over, and within hours of the deadly Feb. 1 attack he described it as a failed coup attempt possibly linked to the drugs trade. At a news conference on Thursday, Embalo said three soldiers who were arrested by U.S. drug authorities in a 2013 sting operation and pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking had been detained in connection with the attack. Embalo said he personally saw two – Captain Tchamy Yala and Lieutenant Papis Djeme – during the assault and that ex-navy commander Bubo Na Tchuto was coordinating the coup attempt from navy headquarters. … Embalo suggested the attack, in which the government said seven security personnel defending the president, three government workers and one assailant were killed, was retaliation for his efforts to crack down on drug trafficking. … But some politicians and regional analysts have questioned this, saying drug smuggling has persisted under Embalo’s watch and the attack was more likely related to trafficking groups and their political backers competing for the spoils. Reuters

Protesters Take to Sudan’s Streets Again, Decrying Coup, Arrests
Sudanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters trying to march on the presidential palace on Thursday amid nationwide demonstrations against October’s military coup and a wave of political detentions. … Hundreds of protesters diverged from planned routes on Thursday to renew efforts to march on the presidential palace but were met with tear gas and a heavy security presence a little more than a kilometer from their goal. “We will continue demonstrating in the streets until we bring down military rule and bring back democracy,” said Salah Hamid, a 22-year-old university student. … Two prominent political critics of the military, Khalid Omer Yousif and Wagdi Salih, were arrested on Wednesday. … The U.S. State Department said Washington, along with Britain, Canada, Norway, Switzerland and the European Union, “condemn this harassment and intimidation on the part of Sudan’s military authorities.” “This is wholly inconsistent with their stated commitment to participate constructively in a facilitated process to resolve Sudan’s political crisis to return to a democratic transition,” it said in a statement, calling on the military to release all those unjustly detained and lift a state of emergency. Reuters

Tunisian Judges, Lawyers Protest President’s Dissolution of Key Courts Watchdog
More than 200 judges and lawyers in black robes protested Thursday outside the main court in the Tunisian capital after President Kais Saied vowed to scrap a key judicial watchdog. Judges have been on strike since Wednesday in the North African country, the birthplace of the 2011 Arab uprisings, in protest at Saied’s weekend move to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council (CSM) months after a July power grab. At the rally in central Tunis on Thursday, police looked on as protesters chanted “restore the CSM” and “the people want an independent judiciary.” Some held signs calling Saied’s move “a violation of rights and freedoms” and saying “there is no democracy without an independent judiciary.” … On Wednesday, a group of 45 civil society groups had issued a statement rejecting “any interference by the executive authority in the judiciary’s work.” They said the CSM, despite its “shortcomings,” was the only institution guaranteeing the judiciary’s independence. AFP

Libya Slides Deeper Into Chaos as Parliament Picks New Government
Libya hurtled deeper into political chaos on Thursday when its Parliament voted to install a new interim government over the objections of the current prime minister. The oil-rich North African nation was already in political limbo after its failure to hold national elections on time in December. … But the current prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeiba, vowed to hold onto power and called the vote illegitimate. The dispute seemed to set the country back to a familiar state of affairs: two rival leaders and a country divided in halves — east and west. The Parliament is based in the east, which is controlled by the militia leader Khalifa Hifter, while Mr. Dbeiba’s internationally recognized government is based in the capital, Tripoli, in the west. … Nearly three million Libyans had registered to vote for the elections that were set for Dec. 24 before they were postponed indefinitely. About 2.5 million of them had picked up voter cards, signaling their intention to cast ballots, but the possibility of an election seems as far off as ever. … analysts said, the purpose of Thursday’s parliamentary vote seemed to be to avoid having elections that could dent the power of the already powerful. The Parliament did lay out a path toward new elections, but the intermediate steps it called for were so unrealistic that Libyans seemed destined for a fresh outbreak of instability and chaos instead of a chance to vote on their leaders. The New York Times

Several Killed in Attack Targeting Somalia Election Delegates
A suicide bomber targeting a minibus full of delegates involved in Somalia’s parliamentary elections killed at least six people in Mogadishu, the ambulance service said, as the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab armed group claimed responsibility for the attack. The blast occurred early on Thursday as the vehicle was passing a busy junction on a road heading to the president’s office in the capital of the East African nation. … Somalia’s elections for lawmakers began on November 1 and were initially supposed to end on December 24, but are currently due to be completed on February 25. The attack on delegates may present an additional challenge to the election. According to Somalia’s indirect electoral process, regional councils are meant to choose a senate. Delegates include clan elders who pick members of the lower house, which would then choose a new president at a date yet to be fixed. … So far 124 of 275 lawmakers have been elected, according to data from the election commission. Al Jazeera

Death Toll in Benin National Park Attacks Rises as France Opens Terror Probe
Nine people including a Frenchman were killed this week in attacks in a national park in Benin’s remote north bordering troubled Niger and Burkina Faso, according to a government update. The toll was the deadliest in recent attacks Benin has suffered as coastal West African states face spillover from Sahel countries battling jihadists. An African Parks patrol flushing out poachers and another patrol hit two improvised explosive devices on Tuesday, killing five park rangers, one park official, one soldier and a French trainer who was with them, the Benin government said in a statement late Thursday. A third reconnaissance patrol also hit another explosive on Thursday, killing another African Parks official, it said. … No group has claimed responsibility but Benin’s military has increased its presence in the area following two attacks late last year that military sources blamed on jihadists from across the border. AFP

‘Anything to Stop the Massacres’: Peace Still Eludes DRC as Armed Groups Proliferate
For the past three months, Ugandan forces have been bombarding Islamist rebels in its border region with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The offensive, in the Rwenzori mountain range that straddles both countries, has forced many Congolese to leave their homes and move to the cities for shelter. … Uganda is now fighting alongside the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s armed forces (FARDC) in efforts to root out the rebels. Attacks in Kampala last year added urgency to plans already under way for joint operations to prop up the chaotic and underfunded Congolese forces. … Reports suggest between 1,500 and 5,000 Ugandan troops could eventually be involved. There are about 120 rebel groups operating in eastern DRC, but the ADF, with an estimated 1,500 fighters, is a particular threat. Formed by groups opposed to Uganda’s autocratic president, Yoweri Museveni, in the late 1990s, their camps are in dense forest from where they carry out brutal raids on villages, abducting recruits. … With dozens of overlapping armed groups operating in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, accurate figures are hard to come by, but the ADF is believed to have killed at least 2,238 people and abducted 896 people since April 2017, according to Kivu Security Tracker, which monitors violence in the region. The Guardian

South Africa: Ramaphosa Acknowledges July Unrest Intelligence Failure
President Cyril Ramaphosa used his sixth State of the Nation Address (SONA) from the Cape Town City Hall yesterday (10 February) to respond to “a deeply disturbing picture of the capabilities of (South Africa’s) security services.” The charge is one of a number pointing fingers at the Ramaphosa Cabinet, especially its Justice and Security Cluster, in the wake of violence and looting across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last July. … He told those present and a television audience across all three South African news channels: “The report concludes government’s initial handling of the July 2021 events was inept, police operational planning was poor, there was poor co-ordination between the state security and intelligence services and police are not always embedded in the communities they serve.” While the reaction of Minister Bheki Cele’s SA Police Service (SAPS) was criticised in the report, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was largely unscathed. The report has it that, from the perspective of freeing up police to contain rioting, deployment of soldiers to guard national key points (NKPs), was “timely and effective.” Also on the SANDF deployment, the report states “the arrival and continued presence of SANDF members went a long way in assisting to calm down the situation.” defenceWeb

Africa Transitioning Out of Pandemic Phase of COVID: WHO
Africa is transitioning out of the pandemic phase of the COVID-19 outbreak and moving towards a situation where it will be managing the virus over the long term, the head of the World Health Organization on the continent has said. … “The pandemic is moving into a different phase … We think that we’re moving now, especially with the vaccination expected to increase, into what might become a kind of endemic living with the virus,” [Dr Matshidiso Moeti] said. “Over the past two years, the African continent has gotten smarter, faster and better at responding to each new surge in cases of COVID-19. … According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have pushed up to 40 million people into extreme poverty in Africa, and every month of delay in lifting containment measures is estimated to cost Africa $13.8bn in lost gross domestic product, Moeti said. … She said Africa’s 54 countries must implement lessons learned during the previous waves of the virus to deal with possible future waves or variants. “When we move into the next so-called control phase of COVID-19, or living with COVID-19, the capacity of countries to reduce and control incidents of infections will be key,” said Moeti. “The ability to promptly prevent, diagnose and treat cases is what will mitigate the long-term consequences of future infections,” said Moeti. Al Jazeera

EU Chief Announces $172 Billion Investment for Africa 
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Thursday announced a more than $172 billion investment plan for Africa, as part of the European Union’s Global Gateway infrastructure initiative. Von der Leyen made the announcement at a news conference in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, as she spoke to reporters alongside President Macky Sall. Von der Leyen is in the West African nation to prepare for an EU–African Union summit scheduled for next week. Senegal currently holds the rotating presidency of the AU. In her comments, Von der Leyen said the funds for Africa represent the first regional package to be implemented as part of the Global Gateway investment initiative, first announced late last year. The Global Gateway seeks to invest up to $340 billion for public and private infrastructure projects around the world by 2027. Seen as a response to China’s Belt and Road initiative, the investment scheme will draw on private sector investments as well as funding from EU institutions and member countries. In a release on its website, the EU says the package will include more than $488 million for COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine rollouts; roughly $1.7 billion toward strengthening health security architecture, pharmaceutical systems and manufacturing, and improving access to health care, along with nearly $70 million for sexual and reproductive health and rights infrastructure. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones