Africa Media Review for February 2, 2021

Uganda Opposition Leader Bobi Wine Calls on Court to Nullify Election Result
The Ugandan opposition leader and presidential challenger Bobi Wine has filed a petition at the country’s highest court to challenge the re-election of Yoweri Museveni in last month’s polls. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, wants the supreme court in the capital, Kampala, to nullify the victory of Museveni in the 14 January poll. Museveni, 76, who has ruled Uganda without pause since seizing control in 1986 … claimed a sixth five-year term, extending his rule to four decades, according to official results. “What we want from the court is nullification of that election where Museveni was declared. We do not want him to participate in elections in Uganda again because he is an agent of violence,” said Medard Ssegona, the lead lawyer acting on behalf of Wine and his National Unity Platform party (NUP). “All elections he has participated in have been violent elections. He is a common denominator in the electoral violence of this country. We don’t want him to participate again.” Wine, a 38-year-old reggae star, said he was the winner of the election and has alleged the military was stuffing ballot boxes, casting ballots for people and chasing voters away from polling stations. The Guardian

UN: Central African Republic Faces Dire Humanitarian Plight
Violence-torn Central African Republic is facing an increasingly dire humanitarian situation with high insecurity on the main supply route from Cameroon blocking humanitarian deliveries and prices for basic food prices soaring, the United Nations said Monday. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said this is happening as 2.3 million people are already projected to need food, while rapid assessments are showing “alarming figures of severe malnutrition among the newly displaced.” The U.N. reported Friday that 200,000 people have fled their homes in the impoverished country in less than two months and are displaced inside and outside the country. … Dujarric said a key cause of the current deteriorating humanitarian situation is the very high level of insecurity along the road link to Cameroon where over 1,600 trucks, including 500 with humanitarian supplies, have been blocked at the border since mid-December, causing a suspension of imports. AP

Ethiopia: UN Says 20,000 Refugees Missing in Tigray
As many as 20,000 refugees are missing after two camps in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region were destroyed, the United Nations said. The refugees, most of whom are from neighbouring Eritrea, fled from the Hitsats and Shimelba shelters that were destroyed in fighting that erupted in Tigray in November. In January, satellite images showed the destruction of the two refugee camps sheltering thousands of Eritreans in the region. About 3,000 people made it to another camp in Mai-Aini, which the United Nations has access to, according to Filippo Grandi, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. Many refugees “were caught in crossfire, abducted and forced to return to Eritrea under duress by Eritrean forces,” Grandi said, citing testimony presented to him at a visit to the camp while on a four-day trip for meetings with officials in Ethiopia. … Grandi called on the Ethiopian government to do more to protect civilians in the Tigray region from the consequences of the conflict. … The situation in Tigray is extremely grave and urgent support is necessary to prevent the situation worsening, Grandi said. “Our main priority is to gain access to deliver aid and protection.” Al Jazeera

Rising Tension as Ethiopia and Sudan Deadlocked on Border Dispute
Bickering over contested farmland along the border has in recent weeks deteriorated into armed clashes. … The uptick in skirmishes initially involving militias from the two countries saw the neighbours’ national armies intervene – and by mid-December, both countries had massed soldiers along the frontier in the al-Fashaga region. … But both countries have made notable shifts in policy regarding the border dispute. Previous Ethiopian administrations were far more accommodating of Sudan’s territorial claims. In 2009, Ethiopia’s former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi relinquished control of strips of land on the border to Sudan, as part of agreements that caused an uproar in Ethiopia when made public. Despite Ethiopia’s concessions, Sudan’s al-Bashir made no concrete effort to militarise its border and prevent the odd raid into its territory by Ethiopian militia. But under Abiy, Ethiopia appears to have backtracked on past agreements and could yet stake a claim for some of the coveted farmland. Sudan’s tolerance, meanwhile, has thinned considerably amid the rising tensions, which have sparked calls for de-escalation. Al Jazeera

Sudan Minister Warns Ethiopia against Filling Dam without Deal
Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas has warned Addis Ababa against a planned phase second filling of a controversial dam reservoir without signing an agreement with the stakeholders, adding that the move threatens the safety of Sudanese citizens who live on the banks of the Blue Nile river. Ethiopia has held several rounds of talks with Sudan and Egypt, which fear that the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will lead to water shortages in their countries. His remarks on Monday were made during a meeting with the Head of the European Union mission to Sudan Robert van den Dool … After the last round of virtual meetings between foreign and water ministers, Khartoum objected to what it said was a January 8 letter from Ethiopia to the African Union stating that Ethiopia was determined to fill the reservoir for the second year in July with 13.5 million cubic metres of water, whether an agreement is reached or not. However, Egypt and Ethiopia, in separate statements, blamed Sudanese objections to the framework for the talks for the new impasse. Al Jazeera

UN Officials Call for Protection, Justice for Victims of Darfur Violence
Two U.N. human rights experts are calling on Sudan to protect victims of intercommunal violence in the volatile Darfur region and for the perpetrators of the violence to be brought to justice. Some 163 people were killed, 217 wounded and 50,000 displaced following violent clashes between the Arab and non-Arab Massalit tribes on January 16 and 17 in West and South Darfur. Another clash on January 18 between the Rezigat and Falata communities in South Darfur reportedly saw another 72 killed and 70 injured, with 100 families displaced. “We urge the government of Sudan to step up its efforts to protect civilians, including those internally displaced, prevent further displacements and advance solutions to internal displacement by promptly and fully implementing its national plan for the protection of civilians,” said Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, and Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. VOA

South Sudan: UN Rights Commission Welcomes ‘First Steps’ Towards Transitional Justice Institutions
South Sudan’s transitional unity government announced on Friday that it will establish the African Union (AU) Hybrid Court to prosecute human rights violations. The Commission for Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing, and the Compensation and Reparation Authority that will administer a fund for victims. “After more than two years of delay, the Government has at last taken the first steps to initiate key transitional justice measures to address the legacy of gross human rights violations in South Sudan”, Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, said on Monday. “If the Government of South Sudan is to retain any credibility whatsoever, the political rhetoric must translate into tangible, and genuine results,” she cautioned. … The Commission further welcomed a statement by the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki, expressing his support to the Government and people of South Sudan in their quest for peace and security. UN News

Closed Highway and Dangerous Desert Detour Underline Challenges to Libyan Peace
Libyans watching a peace process nearing a critical phase this week in Switzerland need only try driving from one side of their country to the other to understand the obstacles to diplomacy. An October ceasefire called for all foreign mercenaries to leave the country and for the main coastal road between west and east to reopen. But the mercenaries remain, the United Nations said last week, and the road is shut. For those who cannot take one of the flights that resumed last year between the capital Tripoli in the west and Benghazi in the east, it means a long, dangerous detour through the desert. “Drivers face violence and abuse. Sometimes we lose contact with the drivers for two days until they reach safety and can get a mobile signal,” said a transport company worker, who asked not to be named fearing reprisals from armed groups. A 24-year-old driver from Benghazi, waiting in Tripoli to fill his minibus with goods to take back, said he had no other way to make a living. Reuters

Zanzibar VP Seif Hamad Says in Hospital after COVID-19 Diagnosis
Zanzibar’s First Vice President Seif Sharif Hamad has confirmed reports that he has been hospitalised saying he tested positive for coronavirus. Mr Hamad is the chairman of the main opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo) in the Tanzanian archipelago, which joined the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi to form a government of national unity after the October elections last year. “It is true I am at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital where I am being treated for Covid-19 and my wife has been isolated at home,” said Mr Hamad in a text message on Monday. He becomes the first person to publicly reveal a Covid-19 status since April last year when President John Magufuli declared the country coronavirus-free. There is no official Covid-19-related statistics or information available in Tanzania and issuing of unsanctioned Covid-19 information is strictly prohibited and restricted to the president, prime minister, the minister for Health and the government’s chief spokesman. The EastAfrican

UK Announces Sanctions against 4 Zimbabwean Security Chiefs
The U.K. has imposed sanctions on four top Zimbabwean security officials blamed for a variety of human rights abuses, including the deaths of 23 anti-government protesters. The measures, which bar the four men from traveling to the U.K. or channeling money through the country’s banks, are part of a wider British push for economic and political reform in Zimbabwe. The sanctions are the first Britain has imposed unilaterally since it severed ties with the European Union at the beginning of this year. The sanctions apply to Owen Ncube, minister for state security; Isaac Moyo, director general of the Central Intelligence Organization; Godwin Matanga, commissioner general of the Zimbabwe Republic Police; and Anselem Sanyatwe, commander of the Presidential Guard. … The Foreign Office said it was targeting the worst human rights abuses since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power in 2017. Those include a crackdown on protests in January 2019 that led to the deaths of 17 people and post-election violence in August 2018 that resulted in six deaths. AP

South Africa Welcomes First Delivery of COVID-19 Vaccines
South Africa gave a hero’s welcome Monday to the delivery of its first COVID-19 vaccines — 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa greeted the crates of vaccine that arrived at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. The shipment will be followed up later this month by another 500,000 doses. The vaccine will be effective in preventing severe disease and death from the variant that has become dominant in South Africa, a vaccine expert says. The AstraZeneca vaccines will be used to inoculate South Africa’s front-line health workers, which will kickstart the country’s vaccination campaign. The first jabs are expected to be administered in mid-February, after the vaccines are tested and approved by South Africa’s drug regulatory authorities. AP

Ford to Spend $1 Billion in Biggest South Africa Investment
Ford Motor Co. will plow $1.05 billion into a plant in South Africa — its biggest-ever investment in the country — as the carmaker scales back in other regions including Brazil and Europe. The upgrades to the Silverton plant near the capital, Pretoria, will boost the site’s annual capacity by almost a fifth to 200,000 units and create about 1,200 direct jobs, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. The outlay will support production of a new Ranger pickup truck starting in 2022, both for domestic sales and exports. … “This will help to expand and transform our country’s manufacturing base,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a speech at the Silverton site. “The plan is “a clear statement of the company’s confidence in this development and its ambitions for its South African business.” Ford’s fresh investment and jobs will come as a welcome boost to South Africa, where almost a third of the workforce is unemployed. The country has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns and a resurgence of infections weighing on activity, and 2020 economic output probably contracted the most in at least nine decades. Bloomberg

Sibongile Khumalo, South Africa’s ‘First Lady of Song,’ Dies at 63
Sibongile Khumalo, a virtuoso vocalist whose ease of motion between opera, jazz and South African popular music made her a symbol of the country’s new social order after the end of apartheid, died on Thursday. She was 63. … Fleet and precise across a wide vocal range but particularly elegant in the upper register, Ms. Khumalo’s voice had the hall-filling power of an operatic mezzo-soprano and the directness of a pop singer. … At home she was equally known for her catchy original compositions and her renditions of South African jazz standards like the straight-ahead anthem “Yakhal’ Inkomo,” written by the saxophonist Winston Ngozi, which became a calling card. When the apartheid government fell and Nelson Mandela became the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994, Ms. Khumalo performed at his inauguration. Mandela famously referred to her as the country’s “first lady of song,” and the title stuck. The next year, when South Africa went to the Rugby World Cup — a moment of national reconciliation later immortalized in the film “Invictus” — Ms. Khumalo was invited to perform both her home country’s national anthem and that of its opponent, New Zealand. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones