Africa Media Review for February 19, 2021

Somali Security Forces Fire on Protest over Delayed Election
Security forces in Somalia’s capital fired on hundreds of people protesting the delay of the country’s election on Friday as at least one explosion was reported at the international airport and armored personnel carriers blocked major streets. The chaos occurred hours after Somalia’s government and opposition leaders said gunfire erupted overnight near the presidential palace. There was no immediate word of deaths. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is under pressure as the Feb. 8 election date came and went without resolution of issues related to how the vote is conducted in the Horn of Africa nation. Information Minister Osman Dubbe said “armed militia” attacked a military post in Mogadishu overnight but was repulsed. But former Somali president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed asserted that the government had raided the hotel near the presidential palace where he and another former president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, were staying ahead of the protest. AP

Algeria’s President Dissolves Parliament, Calls for Early Elections
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday announced the dissolution of the lower house of parliament and called early legislative elections as the North African nation struggles with health, political and economic crises. In an address to the nation, Tebboune said he will also carry out a government reshuffle and issued a pardon for dozens of jailed activists of the “Hirak” protest movement. The government has struggled to stem renewed Hirak protests. … Algerians have been awaiting the implementation of economic and political reforms Tebboune promised after succeeding Bouteflika, who stepped down in 2019 following mass protests after two decades in power. The North African OPEC member country has been under financial pressure due to a sharp fall in energy earnings, forcing the government to cut spending and delay some planned investment projects. Elected in December 2019, Tebboune has vowed to take steps aimed at diversifying the economy away from oil and gas. He spent a total of three months in Germany since October, receiving treatment for Covid-19, and returned home earlier this month. France24 with AFP and Reuters

Violence Still Raging in South Sudan Despite Peace Deal: U.N.
Violence is still raging in vast swathes of South Sudan a year after a peace deal was signed to end a civil war that began in 2013, a United Nations report said on Friday. Attacks by armed groups against civilians intensified in 2020 and victims are targeted along ethnic lines, often with the support of government and opposition forces, the report by the U.N.’s Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said. The scale of violence exceeds that of 2013 to 2019, commission chairwoman Yasmin Sooka said. Hundreds of people were killed, and hundreds of thousands more displaced during fighting in Central Equatoria, Warrap, Jonglei, and Greater Pibor, the report said. Women and girls have been “abducted, raped, gang-raped, and sexually enslaved, and in some instances are forcibly married,” the commission said in a press release. Commission member Andrew Clapham said the scale of the violence and the fact that local groups were using newer weapons suggested either the involvement of state forces or external actors. Reuters

Amid a Rebel Offensive, a Push for Justice in Central African Republic
A trial of two militia leaders accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Central African Republic at the International Criminal Court is prompting hope of justice for victims of past conflicts, even as a new wave of violence sweeps the country. Alfred Yekatom, known as “Rambo”, and Patrice-Édouard Ngaïssona are accused of directing attacks on civilians by the anti-Balaka, a largely Christian and animist militia that emerged in CAR in 2013 to counter the Séléka, a mainly Muslim alliance of northern rebels who had ousted former president François Bozizé. … Watching the opening of the trial on Tuesday on a screen in CAR’s capital, Bangui, Étienne Oumba, from the Central African United Victims Association, told The New Humanitarian: “We were waiting, discouraged, for this moment to happen. Today, it is Rambo and Ngaïssona, but tomorrow it will be more tormentors that will be arrested and brought to justice.” The New Humanitarian

WHO Says More Than 11,000 Ebola Vaccines Will Go to Guinea
The World Health Organization says it will be sending more than 11,000 Ebola vaccinations to the West African nation of Guinea in the coming days to combat the recent epidemic of the deadly hemorrhagic fever that has been declared in the country’s southern N’Zerekore region. WHO regional director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said Thursday that 11,000 Ebola vaccines are being prepared in Geneva and are expected to arrive in Guinea over the weekend. An additional 8,600 doses will be shipped from the United States, she said. The vaccination campaign could start as early as Monday. “Thirty vaccination experts have already been mobilized locally and are ready to deploy as soon as Ebola vaccines arrive in the country,” she said. … “The sub-region is on high alert and surveillance in neighboring countries is ongoing,” she said. “Our collective, quick action is crucial to avert an uncontrolled spread of Ebola amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already pushed health workers and health facilities to the edge.” AP

Africa Reaches 100,000 Known COVID-19 Deaths as Danger Grows
Africa has surpassed 100,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 as the continent praised for its early response to the pandemic now struggles with a dangerous resurgence and medical oxygen often runs desperately short. “We are more vulnerable than we thought,” the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told The Associated Press in an interview reflecting on the pandemic and a milestone he called “remarkably painful.” He worried that “we are beginning to normalize deaths,” while health workers are overwhelmed. The 54-nation continent of some 1.3 billion people has barely seen the arrival of large-scale supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, but a variant of the virus dominant in South Africa is already posing a challenge to vaccination efforts. Still, if doses are available, the continent should be able to vaccinate 35% to 40% of its population before the end of 2021 and 60% by the end of 2022, Nkengasong said. AP

Exiled in Kenya, Controversial Ugandan Activist Continues to Speak Out
As a child, Stella Nyanzi’s parents fled from then-Ugandan President Idi Amin Dada in the 1970s, forcing her to live in Kenya as a refugee for five years. Today, she finds herself in the same predicament, seeking refuge as an adult. “I’ve come full circle,” the opposition candidate told VOA from Kenya, where she is seeking political asylum. “I am fleeing from another dictator in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, and I came with my teenage children.” Nyanzi, a government opponent, researcher and writer, fled Uganda this month after Museveni won a sixth term as president in a violence-marred campaign that has opponents contesting the results. She ran unsuccessfully for a Parliament seat and left after her partner, David Musiri, was abducted on January 20 and allegedly tortured by government forces a week after the national elections in Uganda. … Roland Ebole, a regional researcher at Amnesty International, told VOA that Musiri was among numerous opposition members who were rounded up and suffered physical harm. VOA

Ugandan Soldiers Jailed for Assaulting Journalists
Six Ugandan soldiers were handed prison sentences of up to three months by a military court on Thursday for taking part in the brutal beating of local journalists covering the country’s opposition leader. The seven injured journalists were covering an effort by opposition leader Bobi Wine to file a petition on Wednesday with the United Nations against human rights abuses, when they were set upon by security forces. One of the journalists remained hospitalised with a deep head wound, according to the Uganda Editors’ Guild. The 38-year-old former popstar Wine has alleged January’s election was rigged, and his petition to the UN detailed alleged abuses such as illegal detentions, torture, forced disappearances and continued harassment of opposition groups. The journalists were injured as military police chased his supporters away from the United Nations’ offices in Kampala. AFP

Chad Activist Gets Jail Term for Post on Leader’s Health
A Chadian court on Thursday sentenced a rights activist to three years in jail for writing that the country’s iron-fisted ruler was seriously ill and being treated in France. Idriss Deby has ruled Chad for over 30 years and is running for a sixth term in presidential elections in April. Baradine Berdei Targuio, the head of the Chadian Organisation of Human Rights was arrested on January 24, 2020 for a Facebook post in which he said Deby was “seriously ill and hospitalised in France.” He has been detained for over a year. Deby had returned to Chad just two days before the Facebook post after nine days in France as rumours swirled about his state of health. The Criminal Court in the capital sentenced the activist “to three years in jail for attacking the constitutional order,” an AFP journalist present in the court said. … Last week, the Chadian government issued a new ban on anti-government protests ahead of the April presidential vote which marches and sit-ins in the capital N’Djamena and the provinces “strictly forbidden” as “they are likely to trigger disturbances to public order.” AFP

At Least 18 Killed in Attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali
Suspected Islamists killed at least 18 people in attacks in northern Burkina Faso and central Mali on Wednesday and Thursday, government and security sources said. Attacks by militants with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State are common in the two West African countries, where Islamists have expanded their reach in recent years despite the presence of 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers and 5,100 French troops. This week Chad announced it would deploy 1,200 troops to the area to complement France’s Barkhane counter-terrorism force, as leaders of the five Sahel countries and their allies met to assess the security situation. The attack in Burkina Faso happened on Thursday morning between the towns of Markoye and Tokabangou, where residents were ambushed on their way to a market across the nearby border in Dolbel, Niger, government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura said in a statement. … In Mali, at least nine people were killed and others were missing or wounded in a spate of attacks near Bandiagara in the central Mopti region, local government sources said. Reuters

Nigeria Hunts School Kidnappers as Families Call for Help
Nigerian security forces on Thursday said they were tracking the armed gang that kidnapped more than 40 people from a school a day earlier, as families and a survivor described how students fled gunfire during the early morning attack. The kidnapping in Kagara in central Niger state was the latest mass abduction in Nigeria, where criminal gangs known as “bandits” have stepped up violent attacks on communities. Gunmen in military uniforms raided the Government Science College in Kagara early Wednesday, killing one student and spiriting others into a nearby forest. … On Thursday, Nigerian army and police with a surveillance helicopter were conducting a massive operation, Police Inspector General Mohammed Abubakar Adamu said in a statement. In Kagara, families appealed for the government to help free the victims and described students fleeing gunfire after armed men arrived at the school, where hundreds of pupils were staying in dormitories. AFP

Nigerian Military Cannot Solve Insurgency Alone – Buratai
[Former Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai] made this comment when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs for his screening. The screening exercise is for a possible confirmation of his appointment as non-career ambassadors. Mr Buratai and other former service chiefs appeared one after the other before the committee. … He said the military alone cannot solve the problem of insecurity, especially without the federal government playing its part by providing necessary infrastructure. “They have won the communities to their side. It requires the whole government approach to deal with this. “Military activities or military action is just one aspect. And this is one mistake we have been making – only the military that is seen to solve this thing it is not. Military cannot solve this action, in the first place, it wasn’t the military that started it. “There were political, social, economic factors that need to be addressed from the beginning. Development should be progressive. There should be roads everywhere. There should be employment, hospitals, schools all over.” He said “many local governments in the north do not have good access roads and have become easy targets and until the right amenities are provided, the menace will persist.” Premium Times

Nigeria Infrastructure Splurge to Boost Economy
Nigeria’s government is stepping up a drive to improve its decrepit infrastructure with a series of billion dollar projects as president Muhammadu Buhari seeks to pull Africa’s largest economy out of its worst recession in 40 years. While the move should boost an economy hit by plunging oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, critics have complained that they favour his native north and question a lack of transparency as well as the involvement of Chinese backers. The government this month broke ground on a $2bn internationally-funded rail line connecting the country’s north to neighbouring Niger, and announced it was forming Infraco, a public-private infrastructure fund with N1tn ($2.6bn) in seed capital from the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and the Africa Finance Corporation, a mostly privately owned pan-African project finance firm. Next month, it expects to start work on a $3bn railway line that would link the country’s east side, from oil-rich Port Harcourt in the south to Maiduguri in the north. FT



Photo: Adam Jones