Africa Media Review for February 16, 2022

Paris Hosts Summit on Mali, Considers Troops Withdrawal
France is hosting a summit on Wednesday devoted to the fight against Islamic extremists in West Africa as Paris considers withdrawing its troops from Mali while maintaining military operations in the broader Sahel region, the French presidency said. The move comes amid growing tensions between Mali, its African neighbors and European partners. The European Union this month imposed sanctions on five senior members of Mali’s transitional government, including Prime Minister Choguel Maiga, accusing them of working to obstruct and undermine the transition from military to civilian rule. French President Emmanuel Macron will meet with African and European counterparts during a dinner at the Elysee presidential palace ahead of an EU-Africa summit scheduled Thursday and Friday in Brussels. Wednesday’s meeting not only will address France’s potential withdrawal, but also the involvement of the U.N. peacekeeping force and of the EU training mission. “We are now in a situation which requires drawing the consequences of the political split and operational split” with Mali, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French lawmakers on Tuesday. Decisions need to be discussed collectively in order to “find another way forward,” he said. AP

Belgium Excludes Deployment of Troops to Mali for Now
Belgium has for now ruled out deploying a contingent of some 250 troops to Mali, the Belgian defense minister’s office told AFP on Tuesday, as European forces withdraw from the region. Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder told a committee in the Belgian Parliament that security conditions do not permit the deployment “because of the current stance of the (Malian) junta.” Her office confirmed her words. The Belgian soldiers had been meant this year to join Task Force Takuba, a French-led military operation numbering nearly 900 men. The change of plan comes as French President Emmanuel Macron is said by multiple sources to be set to announce that French troops will be withdrawn from Mali and redeployed elsewhere in the Sahel following a breakdown in ties with the country’s military regime. Security sources told AFP that Macron’s announcement to end the nine-year French mission in Mali will coincide with a European Union-African Union summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. After two coups in Mali since 2020, France and other Western nations complain that the junta has missed deadlines to restore civilian rule and become increasingly hostile to the presence of French and European soldiers on its soil. The Defense Post with AFP

Decade-High Food Prices Drive Poverty and Unrest in Africa
Parts of Africa are contending with a wave of inflation that is, by some measures, even worse than the supply shocks cascading around the rest of the world. Food prices are at their highest levels in over a decade, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, compounding the plight of some 40 million people thrown into poverty by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns. That is creating a food crisis that threatens to spill over into unrest. In some places, it is already driving people to emigrate. Over the past 12 months, some 100,000 Ugandans-including teachers, accountants and social workers-have migrated to the Gulf, according to government data. … The causes of soaring food prices are varied. … “Up to now, many African countries have not yet fully reopened their land borders, this has greatly curtailed cross-border movements and trade,” Mr. Spio-Garbrah said. … Most African nations are net food importers, meaning that any increases in global food prices have a significant effect on the continent’s 1.4 billion people, the majority of whom spend up to 60% of their income on imported staples such as rice, corn and pasta. … In some areas, notably the Horn of Africa, drought has returned, amplified by conflicts in Ethiopia and elsewhere. Sudan has seen inflation surpass 300%. … Coups have dislodged governments in Mali and Burkina Faso in recent months as the fighting has worsened. WSJ

African Vaccine Producer Could Be Blocked by Moderna Patents, Health Groups Say
A biotechnology company in Cape Town announced this month that it had succeeded in producing its own mRNA vaccine under a program backed by the World Health Organization. The technology could help create vaccines for COVID-19, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and other diseases in Africa and other developing regions. But health experts are concerned the project will be blocked by Moderna’s patents. More than 60 health groups and civil-society organizations have written to the U.S. company, asking for assurances that it won’t use its patents in South Africa to hinder the newly developed vaccine. … The Cape Town company, Afrigen Biologics & Vaccines, created its mRNA vaccine at the tech hub by reverse-engineering Moderna’s vaccine. It used publicly available information on the technology after Moderna and Pfizer both declined a WHO request to share their vaccine recipes with the South African tech transfer hub. Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech had projected revenues of up to US$54-billion last year, yet they supplied less than 2 per cent of their vaccines to low-income countries, Amnesty said in a report this week. There is growing evidence that some of the vaccine manufacturers have tried to shut down the South African technology transfer hub. The BMJ, a British-based medical journal, reported last week that a foundation representing BioNTech had tried to halt the work of the tech hub. The Globe and Mail

Two Killed in Twin Al-Shabaab Attacks in Somalia: Police
Al-Shabaab militants launched simultaneous attacks on police stations around Somalia’s capital Mogadishu overnight, killing two girls and wounding over a dozen people, security officials said Wednesday. Heavily-armed men stormed a police station in Kaxda district in the middle of the night, exchanging gunfire with security forces. “Terrorists using a vehicle loaded with explosives attacked the police station in Kaxda district and inflicted casualties on the civilian population around the area,” police spokesman Abdifatah Adan Hassan told reporters. The gunmen also seized a police vehicle, he added, with officers setting off in pursuit of them. In a second attack overnight, militants targeted the Darussalam suburb on Mogadishu’s outskirts, he said. … Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they had targeted six locations in and around the capital. Mogadishu has seen a spate of attacks in recent weeks as Somalia limps through a political crisis caused by long-running disagreements over delayed polls. Somalia’s president and prime minister have been at loggerheads over the election process, which is more than a year late and has been marred by violence. AFP

Kenya, Ethiopia to Jointly Fight Terror at Common Borders
Ethiopia and Kenya have reached an agreement to jointly fight terror threats along their common borders, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) reported on Tuesday. They signed an agreement to start the joint operation within a month to curb the reach of Somalia’s Al-Shabaab and Ethiopia’s OLF-Shene designated terror groups. The details came following a meeting between the Ethiopian Federal Police Commissioner, General Demelash Gebremichael, and Kenya’s Inspector General of the Kenya National Police Service Hilary Mutyambai, in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The two sides held discussions “on security issues of mutual concerns and reiterated to boost security cooperation to fight cross-border terrorism” and ensure peace and stability at their borders, Fana reported. IG Mutyambai said Ethiopia and Kenya agreed to enhance cooperation in the exchange of information and help them ensure cross-border peace and security. A few months ago, OLF, the main rebel group in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, threatened to cut off a major highway that links Ethiopia to Kenya, in what could directly affect trade with Nairobi. The EastAfrican

Sudanese Doctors Voice Concern about Health Conditions of Political Detainees
A medical group expressed its deep concern about the conditions of political detainees who launched a hunger strike on Monday to protest the arbitrary detention. More than a hundred detainees launched an open-ended hunger strike on Monday, including some leaders of Forces for Freedom and Change and members of the Resistance Committees. The detainees are in Soba Prison and Penitents Prison in Omdurman. Some of them are university students or students in the final year of high school. The Unified Medical Office (UMO) said on Tuesday that the detainees continued their strike for the second day in protest against the ill-treatment and the ban on visits. “The authorities also deny access to medicines for detainees, some of whom suffer from chronic diseases. This ban increases the risk of serious health complications for their lives,” said the Office. The detainees do not receive adequate medical care. Also, they are not hospitalized in the event of a health emergency. ST

Guinea-Bissau: Government Critics under Increasing Pressure
They came in the night, when Rui Landim was alone at home with his grandchildren: Armed and hooded men in an unmarked car tried to break into his home without success. They fired into the house and threw tear gas through a window, choking a child. They left only when neighbors started gathering in the street. Political analyst Rui Landim is a well-known critic of Guinea-Bissau’s government and its president, Umaro Sissoco Embalo. He has a weekly show on Radio Capital called “Dotting the I’s” in which he dissects Embalo’s policies. … The attack on Landim’s house came a day after assailants destroyed the radio station’s offices and wounded five employees. Journalist Maimuna Bari was so badly hurt that she had to be flown to Portugal for treatment. … “A number of people realized that the best way to exert influence is this kind of low-noise, physical pressure on critics,” Vincent Foucher, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, told DW. “It’s always masked attackers. You can always deny it’s you. And it still sends a message.” … Analyst Foucher called for caution in apportioning blame in an exceedingly opaque and complicated system. “The state structures themselves are quite factionalized and sometimes fight one another. There have been several incidents, for instance, in which the judicial police got into trouble with the army or with the National Republican Guard,” he said. Anyone can hire young men to physically attack or intimidate opponents, Foucher stressed. DW

How Instagram’s ‘Billionaire Gucci Master’ Sank Nigeria’s Super Cop
Instagram isn’t exactly known for its fidelity to reality. It’s a place people go to curate an image of their best self, or their aspirational one. But rarely do those images obscure a darker truth to the extent they did back in 2019, in a pair of posts by two public figures from Nigeria. On Dec. 8, Ramon Abbas, better known as @hushpuppi, Ray Hushpuppi, or the Billionaire Gucci Master, posted a photo of himself lounging on the hood of his purple Rolls-Royce. … That same week, 3,000 miles away, Nigeria Police Force Deputy Commissioner Abba Kyari, also known as @abbakyari75, struck a different pose. Kyari’s style was all business: seated at a desk stacked with files, wearing a blue dashiki and his ever-present AirPods. … “Here was someone who was viewed as really uncharacteristically competent at their job in an organization not known for competence,” says Matthew Page, who researches Nigerian corruption as an associate fellow at Chatham House, a London think tank. “That was the narrative around him—that he was actually getting the job done rather than being abusive or on the take.” … Off camera, Abbas fueled his lifestyle with a different kind of hustle, as an online scammer and money launderer. … The announcement of Abbas’s plea contained a more explosive revelation, however. The U.S. government alleged that one of the influencer’s fellow conspirators was a man sworn to uphold the law: Abba Kyari. Bloomberg

Poor Governance, Weak Regional Blocs Feeding Africa’s Coups Says Former Ghana President
Africa has seen a rise in military coups in the past year with takeovers in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan. In an interview with VOA, former Ghanian President John Kufuor, addresses the causes. Kufuor spoke to Kent Mensah in Accra, Ghana. [Video] VOA



Photo: Adam Jones