Africa Media Review for February 18, 2022

Nigeria’s Buhari to EU: Support AU Sanctions on Coup Plotters
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the European Union to support the African Union in sanctioning coup plotters in African countries. There have been at least six successful coups leading to unconstitutional transfer of power in five sub-Saharan African countries in the past two years, Premium Times reported, leading to fears of a resurgence of coups on the continent. Some of the countries include Chad, Mali (twice), Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Sudan. The African Union has imposed sanctions on some of the coup plotters including in Mali and Guinea. … On Thursday, the Nigerian leader urged the EU to support such sanctions. “We also call for stronger support from the European Union in the condemnation and imposition of weighty sanctions on countries that engage in unconstitutional change of governments, as well as manipulation of constitutions in favour of extension of term limits,” Mr Buhari was quoted as saying at the AU-EU summit in Brussels. … “Africa has continued to witness different waves of violent extremism, community-based conflicts, and inter-ethnic tensions, notably in rural areas. For many decades, our continent has been deprived of political stability and socio-economic development due to terrorism and violent extremism. More worrisome is the current state of democracy on the continent, which has become a great source of concern to many of us, with increasing cases of unconstitutional change of governments across the continent, particularly in West Africa.” Premium Times

DR Congo Leader Warns Army Officers to Remain ‘Apolitical’
DR Congo president Felix Tshisekedi on Thursday lashed out at “cases of indiscipline” at all levels of the military and told army officers to remain “apolitical.” … Speaking during a ceremony to exchange vows with senior army and police officers, he also denounced “the poor management of funds and equipment made available to unit commanders at all levels.” “When the commanders think they can do well by enriching themselves and depriving our troops of the means which can help them more in their mission, it is betraying the republic.” … Tshisikedi also sent out a reminder that the army was “apolitical” and had a “duty of reserve.” “You are not here to engage in politics,” he said. “If you want to engage in politics, it’s simple. You take off your uniform, you return to civilian life.” … The comments come after presidential security adviser Francois Beya was arrested on February 5—while Tshisekedi was out of the country—and he has since been detained at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency. Three days later the government said that “indications of serious actions against state security” were uncovered. AFP

After Mali Exit, Niger Accepts Foreign Forces to Secure Border
President Mohamed Bazoum says Niger has accepted that French and European special forces will be deployed into its territory from Mali to boost security near the border with its neighbouring country. Bazoum’s comments on Friday came a day after France and European allies announced they would begin withdrawing troops from Mali fighting armed groups operating in the western portion of Africa’s Sahel region. “Our goal is for our border with Mali to be secure,” Bazoum said on Twitter, adding that he expected threats from the armed groups to rise in the area following the departure of the forces. “This area will be even more infested and the terrorist groups will strengthen. We know that they are destined to extend their influence,” Bazoum said, adding the deployed forces would be able to respond to threats from armed groups in the area. … A statement signed by France and its African and European allies on Thursday said that “multiple obstructions” by Mali’s ruling military government meant that the conditions were no longer in place to operate in the country. … France and 15 European countries in December condemned the Malian authorities’ decision to allow the deployment of personnel from Russia’s Wagner Group, which has reportedly started operating in the country and is accused of rights abuses in the Central African Republic, Libya and Syria. The withdrawal decision applies to both Barkhane and the Takuba European force that France had been trying to forge along with its allies. Al Jazeera

EU Launches Reset with Africa after Pandemic Disruption
The EU welcomed more than 40 African leaders to Brussels on Thursday in an effort to reassert its influence on a continent where China and Russia have made hefty investment inroads, and where many felt let down by Europe’s COVID-19 vaccines rollout. The European Union will offer several packages of support at the summit to bolster health, education and stability in Africa, and will pledge half of a new 300 billion euro ($340.9 billion) investment drive launched to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative. … The European Commission announced this week that the EU and the Gates Foundation would invest more than 100 million euros in the next five years to help set up an African medicines regulator to boost the continent’s drugs and vaccine production. The race to establish the African Medicines Agency (AMA) comes after the pandemic exposed the region’s dependence on imported vaccines. Just over 5% of medicines and 1% of vaccines consumed by Africa’s population of 1.2 billion people are produced locally. The EU says it will provide support to help Africa produce 60% of the vaccines it needs by 2040. … Separately, the European Investment Bank announced on Thursday it would make available 500 million euros in cheap loans to African countries to strengthen healthcare systems. That credit line is expected to mobilise a total of 1 billion euros in private and public investments, the bank said. Reuters

Six African Countries to Receive mRNA Vaccine Technology in WHO Project
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday that six African countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia – would be the first on the continent to receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines. The technology transfer project, launched last year, aims to help low- and middle-income countries manufacture mRNA vaccines at scale and according to international standards. mRNA is the advanced technology used by companies like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna for their Covid-19 shots. The WHO established its global mRNA technology transfer hub after vaccine hoarding by wealthy countries and companies prioritising sales to governments that could pay the highest price meant low-and middle-income countries were pushed to the back of the queue for Covid-19 vaccines. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the COVID pandemic had demonstrated more than any other event how reliance on a few companies to supply global public goods was both limiting and dangerous. “In the mid- to long-term, the best way to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage is to significantly increase the capacity of all regions to manufacture the health products they need,” he said in a statement. Reuters

Calls Grow for Release of Emergency Law Prisoners in Ethiopia
The United States and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission have called for the release of all prisoners held under the state of emergency law lifted on Tuesday. Washington said ending the measures imposed by the government last year was an important step to pave the way for a peaceful resolution of the bloody Tigray war. The US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the next step should be the release of all detainees to facilitate an inclusive and productive national dialogue to end the 15-monthlong ongoing conflict.“ We urge that this [lifting of the state emergency] move be immediately followed by the release of all individuals arrested or detained without charge under the state of emergency,” he said. The US further reaffirmed it would continue to engage with all parties in a bid to advance an immediate cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, transparent investigations into all human rights abuses and violations, and a negotiated resolution to the conflict. … The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) noted that those freed were facing challenges reintegrating as some could not resume work due to a lack of proof of detention. The EHRC urged the government to expedite the issuance of necessary documents for those detained to enable them to return to work and resume a normal life. The EastAfrican

South Sudan: Sharp Decline in Violence against Civilians
Reported incidents of violence against civilians fell by around 42 per cent in 2021 compared with the previous year, according to a new report released by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Thursday. The UNMISS Human Rights Division’s annual brief on violence affecting civilians, documented 3,414 civilian victims subjected to killing, injury, abduction, and conflict-related sexual violence, out of 982 recorded cases. Some 75 per cent of the victims were men, while 14 per cent of cases involved women, and 11 per cent, children. This compares with 5,850 civilian victims documented in 2020. Cases of conflict-related sexual violence declined slightly from 211 in 2020, to 194 in 2021, but remained “unacceptably high”, said UNMISS in its press release. Subnational conflict accounted for most victims in 2021. Warrap remained the state with the highest number of reported incidents, accounting for 24 per cent, followed by Western Equatoria (19 per cent), and Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) (17 per cent each). UN News

Somalia: Architect Searches for Lost Identity in a City Ravaged by War
Omar Degan got used to being ridiculed when he sat down with developers. The architect wanted buildings to incorporate green spaces, use less glass but have bigger windows to allow in more air. They wanted to maximize profit. Such a clash of visions between designer and constructor could, of course, happen anywhere. But the gulf between them was particularly wide in a place where people have been more focused on survival than sustainability. Degan, 31, wants to transform the Somali capital of Mogadishu, a lofty ambition in a city that’s been defined by violence, piracy and terrorism over the past three decades. His persistence, though, has led to prominence by championing cultural heritage and buildings that are in tune with the environment during the frenzy of reconstruction in recent years. He designed a mosque, a restaurant, a school with gardens and a hospital’s maternity ward, work showcased by the New York Times and Wallpaper magazine over the past 18 months. He taught architecture students and shined a light on the potential for projects that are kinder to the environment. Because of the civil war, vast tracts of the country remain undeveloped and its coastline untouched, giving rise to opportunities for a more sustainable approach, he said. CityLab

‘Insightful and Courageous’: Gabon Activist Hervé Mombo Kinga Dies of COVID
Hervé Mombo Kinga, the pro-democracy activist and celebrated blogger who spent 17 months in jail for insulting the Gabonese president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, was not impressed when he saw the pictures of the leader limping up the stairs of France’s presidential palace. Kinga, who died last week at 47 after contracting Covid, was infuriated by the episode – widely shared in the west African country of Gabon, despite the embarrassment it caused the president, whose family has held power for more than five decades. … Kinga was a vociferous critic of the Bongo regime, posting videos under the pseudonym “Matricule 001” or resistance soldier 001. Kinga’s health had deteriorated after the harsh conditions of his detention, according to his lawyer, Anges Kevin Nzigou. He was hospitalised in January and contracted Covid, which “became more severe, particularly because of his state of health”, Nzigou says. Kinga had just become a father for the second time. … “Mr Kinga was an unwavering defender of human rights in Gabon and led his fight without hatred or resentment, despite the obstacles he faced. It is this [that] made him an emblematic figure in the fight for freedoms in Gabon,” Nzigou says. Kinga had been left penniless after the authorities destroyed his business, a cybercafe in the capital Libreville, and could not afford healthcare. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones