Africa Media Review for February 23, 2021

UN, AU and EU Urge Somalia to Quickly Agree on Election Date
The United Nations, African Union and European Union urged the Somali government and opposition on Monday to quickly agree on a date for elections, warning that the delay is fueling violence and impacting the impoverished Horn of Africa nation’s development and security. Acting U.S. ambassador Richard Mills echoed their appeal to swiftly resolve the political impasse, saying last week’s political violence on the streets of the capital Mogadishu over the failure to hold elections “is the latest indication that if not resolved soon, Somalia risks regressing deeper into instability.” At least five soldiers were killed and more than a dozen people, mostly civilians, were wounded in last Friday’s violent protests over the country’s delayed election. The chaos occurred hours after Somalia’s government and opposition leaders said gunfire erupted overnight near the presidential palace. 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 should be conducted in the Horn of Africa nation. Some Somalis are demanding that the president step down. AP

Thousands of Algerians Defy Police to Mark Protest Anniversary
Chanting “A civilian state not a military state!”, “Enough is enough!” and “The people want independence!”, protesters walked through the centre of the capital, waving national flags, watched by large numbers of police. Some of the protesters hope to revive the twice-weekly Hirak protests that surged through Algerian cities from February 2019 for more than a year, regularly bringing tens of thousands of people to the streets until the global pandemic began. “We are determined to continue our battle until victory,” said Djamel Habi, a student. However, other protesters said the march was symbolic rather than a return to regular demonstrations, or that without a clear opposition leadership they were not yet sure whether to continue with protests. … Security checkpoints created traffic jams across the city, with identity checks carried out around key flashpoints, with several arrests made. Police tried to block protesters from gathering around the Grand Post Office, which was at the heart of the mass protests that kicked off in Algiers and several other cities on February 22, 2019 to oppose Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term. France24 with AFP and Reuters

Libya: Over 150 Migrants Freed in Raid on Traffickers
Libyan authorities raided a secret prison in a southeastern city used by human traffickers and freed at last 156 African migrants, as the U.N. migration agency said Monday more than 1,300 Europe-bound migrants were returned over the past week to the conflict-stricken country. The raid in the city of Kufra took place on Sunday after a migrant managed to escape a house-turned-prison last week and reported to authorities that he and other migrants were held and tortured by traffickers there, the Kufra security bureau said. Security forces arrested at least six traffickers and referred them to prosecutors for further investigation, the bureau said. Among them were 15 women and five children, it said. The migrants, who are from Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan, were freed and taken to the shelter center where they were given food, clothes, and blankets. The International Organization for Migration said at least 1,315 migrants were intercepted at the Mediterranean Sea since Feb. 16, and returned to Libya’s western cities of Tripoli, Zuwara and Sabratha. At least a dozen bodies were retrieved, it said. AP

UN: 15 Tigrayan Origin UN Peacekeepers Seek Asylum in South Sudan
About 15 Ethiopian peacekeepers of Tigrayan origin who were due to return home on Monday asked to remain in South Sudan, U.N. officials said, a strong indication they feared going back to Ethiopia where government and allied forces have been fighting forces loyal to Tigray’s fugitive leaders. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said they were among 169 personnel from the Ethiopian contingent in the U.N. peacekeeping mission scheduled to rotate out of South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Some 2,100 of the mission’s 17,200 troops, police and civilians are from Ethiopia. “We’re trying to get the details, but I do understand about 15 members of the contingent chose not to board the flight at the Juba airport,” Dujarric said. “They’ve asked to stay. They are receiving support from the South Sudanese Ministry of Refugee Affairs.” … Dujarric stressed that “any person in need of international protection has the right to seek asylum” and “cannot be returned to their countries of origin if they feel their lives or freedom could be threatened.” AP

Rwanda Opposition Figure Is Killed in South Africa
A Rwandan opposition figure was shot and killed in South Africa on Sunday in what the police said was most likely a robbery but that political allies said resembled earlier assassinations of government critics. Seif Bamporiki was shot in Cape Town sometime after 4 p.m. while making a delivery, his political party, the Rwanda National Congress, said in a statement. Accompanied by a friend, Mr. Bamporiki, a 49-year-old Rwandan exile, arrived in Nyanga township to hand over a bed from his store to a client when two men approached his truck and one of them shot him, the party said. The men took him out the vehicle and fled with it along with some belongings, the South African police said. Mr. Bamporiki’s friend, another Rwandan, was reported to have escaped unharmed. But the Rwanda National Congress, an opposition group in exile formed by former members of President Paul Kagame’s inner circle, said the killing was reminiscent of past cases in which critics of President Kagame were lured to “a compromising and insecure environment” and then murdered. The New York Times

Italian Ambassador Among Three Killed in Attack on U.N. Convoy in Congo
For Luca Attanasio, Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, humanitarian work was at the core of his mission. … On Monday, Mr. Attanasio was among three people killed in an attack on a humanitarian convoy near the city of Goma, the World Food Program and Italy’s Foreign Ministry said, the latest in a wave of violence in that part of the central African nation. The area where the attack took place, North Kivu Province in the east of the country nestled against the border with Rwanda, is known as a hotbed of violent activity, and is home to a tangled web of dozens of armed groups. The deaths of Mr. Attanasio; an Italian Embassy official, named by the Foreign Ministry as Vittorio Iacovacci; and Mustapha Milambo, a driver for the World Food Program, have rattled the international diplomatic community and drawn condemnation from across the globe. The New York Times

Influential Mayor of Mozambique City Dies of COVID-19
Daviz Simango, the leader of Mozambique’s opposition MDM party and the mayor of the major port city of Beira, died Monday in a hospital in South Africa, according to local media. Simango, 57, died of complications from COVID-19 and diabetes, according to the Zitamar news agency. He had been flown to Johannesburg when his condition worsened over the weekend. Simango was elected mayor of Beira, widely considered Mozambique’s second city and a center of opposition support, in 2003 and remained its leader until his death. He was popular and known for running an effective municipal government. Trained as an engineer, he supported building a system of flood channels to help the low-lying Indian Ocean port of 500,000 people cope with flooding from annual cyclones. When Cyclone Idai devastated Beira in 2019, Simango was often out in the streets, helping to establish feeding centers and emergency health clinics. He was also an outspoken campaigner against global warming, which he blamed for the rising sea levels affecting Beira. AP

Measuring Africa’s Data Gap: The Cost of Not Counting the Dead
Only eight African countries out of more than 50 have a compulsory system to register deaths, a BBC investigation has found. This is not just a failure of the state to recognise individual tragedies but has enormous implications for the making of government policy. … In Africa it is only Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles and Mauritius that have what are called functioning, compulsory and universal civil registration systems – known as CRVS systems – which record deaths. All of the countries surveyed by the BBC, working with researchers from the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), do have some sort of death registration. But it is often on paper and not available in a shareable digitised form. … When it comes to coronavirus there is a concern that its true extent in some countries is not fully understood. It has been widely reported that Africa’s Covid-19 death toll is far lower than in other parts of the world. … Thanks to Egypt’s comprehensive registration system, it is possible to calculate that there were more than 68,000 excess deaths between May and August last year. BBC

Nigeria: One in Four People in Africa’s Biggest City May Have Had Covid
One in four people in Africa’s biggest city may have had Covid-19, according to a study. A survey conducted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research showed that 23% of people in the West African nation’s commercial hub of Lagos, which has a population of 21 million people, have been infected with the disease. The number is far above the official estimate of 152,616 infections in the whole of Nigeria. “These rates of infection are higher than those reported through the national surveillance system and reveal that the spread of infection in the states surveyed is wider than is obvious from surveillance activities,” the two agencies said in a joint statement on Tuesday. The findings were based on blood samples collected from at least 10,000 individuals across Lagos and three other Nigerian states in September and October. Bloomberg

Drones, Choppers to Police Pirate-Infested Waters Off Nigeria
Nigeria will commission $195 million worth of aircraft, boats and vehicles in the next three months to strengthen security in the pirate-infested Gulf of Guinea, Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi said. The deployment will help reduce shipowners’ reliance on private security companies to protect them in the sea off Nigeria’s coast, Amaechi said in an interview in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. The water body is the most perilous in the world for seafarers, accounting for almost all crew kidnappings by pirates in recent years, according to the International Maritime Bureau. “We will have enough vessels located in the water, watching the water full time,” Amaechi said. “You have aircraft watching the water, drones watching the water and all of them have the capacity to respond.” The Deep Blue Project, as the initiative is known, is coordinated by a government agency under Amaechi’s supervision. The assets being deployed include two special mission vessels, two aircraft, two helicopters, four drones. 16 armored vehicles and 17 fast interceptor boats. Bloomberg

Why Is Piracy Increasing on the Gulf of Guinea?
The container ship Mozart was more than 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers/230 miles) off the Nigerian coast in January when the pirates struck out of nowhere. Media outlets published reports of dramatic scenes on board the vessel: While the ship’s crew cowered in a safe room fearing for their lives, the pirates quietly set about their work getting to them. … According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), there were 135 maritime kidnappings recorded in 2020 —and 130 of them took place in the Gulf of Guinea. Much like the capture of the Mozart, many of those kidnappings followed an increasingly dangerous script. “We see that the pirates are acting with greater impunity,” IMB Director Michael Howlett told DW. “They are spending more periods of time on board vessels. In one case, they were on board a vessel for more than 24 hours, totally unchallenged.” … “Over the past two or three years, the sea lanes in the Gulf of Guinea — a strategic region through which the majority of Europe’s trade moves — has become the main theater of international piracy,” Portuguese Defense Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho told DW. DW

Nigerian Instagram Star Aided North Korea Cyber Crime, U.S. Says
A Nigerian social-media celebrity helped North Korean hackers launder money stolen from a Maltese bank, U.S. officials said. Ramon Olorunwa Abbas played a supporting role in cyber-scams perpetrated by three computer programmers accused of extorting more than $1.3 billion of cash and cryptocurrency, the Justice Department said on Feb. 17. Abbas, who is widely known as “Hushpuppi” and is in U.S. custody while awaiting trial, has 2.5 million followers on Instagram, where he regularly posted photographs posing with luxury cars or boarding private jets. North Korean state operatives “are the world’s leading bank robbers,” John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said, after unsealing the indictment of Jon Chang Hyok, Kim Il and Park Jin Hyok. … The hackers allegedly turned to a network including Abbas “to launder funds from a North Korean-perpetrated cyber-enabled heist” from an unidentified Maltese bank in February 2019. Bloomberg

Dreaming of Zimbabwe: Stories from the Diaspora
Nearly 24 years ago, Lance Guma came face to face with a gun. … Lance was 22 years old. Lance remembers the gunman threatening to pull the trigger before shrugging and telling him nonchalantly: “You’re making too much noise.” He was certain it was a warning. As a student leader at Harare Polytechnic College, Lance had spoken openly about police brutality and advocated for an increase in student grants. He didn’t bother to report the incident to the police. “This is what happens to activists,” Lance, now 46, explains over a Zoom call. “They (the state) will create a pretext to do something to you and you will struggle to link it to your activism because they’ll make it so random.” … A military coup forced Mugabe from power in 2017, but the climate for journalists and dissidents has not improved in the years since. He reels off a list of those facing persecution: Hopewell Chin’ono, a journalist and anti-corruption campaigner, who was arrested for a series of tweets that encouraged people to attend an anti-government rally and charged with inciting violence; Jacob Ngarivhume, a Zimbabwean politician, who was arrested alongside Hopewell… Al Jazeera

Uganda: How Ojok Okello Is Rebuilding the Hometown He Never Knew
Ojok Okello’s quest to build a city in his village began with a hut. When he set foot in his father’s home village in northern Uganda for the first time in 2013, his plan was simple. He wanted to build a small mud brick house where he could spend time while getting to know his extended family in Okere. At that point, Mr. Okello had spent most of his life with his mother, far from Okere. His father, a prominent civil servant, had been killed in 1986 in fighting between the government and a rebel group called the National Resistance Army. Mr. Okello was barely a year old, and his mother, who ran a small restaurant, raised him largely in Lira, a city 50 miles away. But she always described Okere, an isolated town of about 4,000 people, as remote but deeply welcoming. And so years later, when the war ended, Mr. Okello decided to go back to the home he’d never known. By that time, in his mid-20s, he’d seen northern Uganda’s postwar rebuilding from all sides. … So when he first arrived in Okere, a place of rutted dirt roads without a clinic or school of its own, he decided he wanted to help rebuild the place. But he was adamant that it had to be done differently. The Christian Science Monitor