Africa Media Review for February 25, 2022

African Union Slams Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The African Union on Thursday condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and called for an “immediate ceasefire,” saying the situation risked escalating into “a planetary conflict.” The bloc’s current chair, Senegalese President Macky Sall, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, said in a joint statement they were “extremely concerned” by the invasion. They called on Russia to “respect international law, the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Ukraine.” Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, killing dozens as airstrikes hit military installations and ground forces moved in from the north, south and east. The AU leaders said the “very serious and dangerous situation” should be resolved via “political negotiations” overseen by the United Nations. AFP

South Africa Calls on Russia to Withdraw from Ukraine
“South Africa calls on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine in line with the United Nations Charter, which enjoins all member states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered,” the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said. Pretoria said Russia should withdraw from Ukraine out of “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.” … At a press conference on Thursday, [Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova] called on Pretoria and other countries to join the G7 and European Union in imposing severe sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine. … The EU and G7 organisations were due to meet late on Thursday to decide on what was expected to be a tough package of measures against Russia, including many directed at the country’s leadership. Some Western governments are calling for Russia to be completely cut off from the international financial system. One diplomat told Daily Maverick that although it was a major military power, Russia was economically weak, with an economy no larger than Spain’s. Daily Maverick

Russian Invasion Will Trigger Surge in Food Prices for the World’s Poorest, UN Agency Says
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will hurt the world’s poorest and hungriest people, triggering a sharp rise in food and shipping costs that will damage humanitarian operations globally, the United Nations food agency says. “This is catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme. “It’s just heartbreaking.” …  The Russian invasion of Ukraine will make the global food crisis much worse, he said. “We get 50 per cent of our grain out of the Ukraine-Russia area,” he said. “It’s going to have a dramatic impact on food costs, shipping costs, oil and fuel. Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, it’s going to get worse.” … The prospect of higher food prices is a major concern in Africa, which is a net importer of wheat and other grains. Wandile Sihlobo, an agriculture expert at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, said food prices in Africa have been rising for the past two years because of global droughts and increasing Chinese and Indian demand. “The Russia-Ukraine conflict presents an additional upside risk and is worrying, especially for the East Africa region where there is also drought and a need for grains imports,” he told The Globe and Mail on Thursday. The Globe & Mail

A New Distribution System Is Helping African Countries Ramp Up Vaccinations.
African countries will be able to dramatically accelerate their vaccination programs because the system of distributing Covid vaccines has changed, World Health Organization officials said on Thursday. Previously, the W.H.O. would send vaccine doses to African countries as they became available. But since January, countries have been able to request the vaccines they need from the W.H.O. directly, and in what quantity and when. As a result, they have been able to significantly ramp up vaccination efforts. The continent as a whole had been expected to reach the target of vaccinating 70 percent of the population by August 2024, said Phionah Atuhebwe of the W.H.O.’s Africa office. But now, she said, it seemed like that target could be met by early 2023. Some African countries, including Kenya, the Ivory Coast and Ghana, have rapidly accelerated the rate at which they are vaccinating their populations over a short period of time. … A year since Africa received its first vaccines from Covax, a global effort to distribute doses equitably that is led partly by the W.H.O., 400 million doses have been administered. That is the most robust vaccine rollout on the continent in a single year. But Africa’s vaccination rate still lags far behind the rest of the world: only about 16 percent of people in Africa have received at least one dose, compared to well over 50 percent in every other continent. The New York Times

WHO Works to Spread COVID Vaccine Technology to More Nations
The World Health Organization is creating a global training center to help poorer countries make vaccines, antibodies and cancer treatments using the messenger RNA technology that has successfully been used to make COVID-19 vaccines. At a press briefing in Geneva on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the new hub will be in South Korea and will share mRNA technology being developed by WHO and partners in South Africa, where scientists are working to recreate the COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna Inc. That effort is taking place without Moderna’s help. “Vaccines have helped to change the course of the COVID-19 pandemic but this scientific triumph has been undermined by vast inequities in access to these life-saving tools,” Tedros said. … WHO said the shared technology would hopefully result not only in coronavirus vaccines, but would also be useful in making antibodies, insulin and treatments for diseases including malaria and cancer. AP

AU/EU Peace and Security Summit: Emerging Threats in Africa under the Spotlight
A European Union (EU)/ African Union (AU) joint Africa peace and security architecture summit heard both [regions] face growing common security challenges including instability, radicalization, and terrorism. Alhadji Sarjoh Bah, Conflict Management Director in the continental body’s Political Affairs Peace and Security Department, spoke in the wake of the recent 35th AU Summit and the just concluded AU/EU Summit. Recognition of the security challenges he said, according to a statement, “demanded” a new Africa/Europe peace and security architecture to build on “our longstanding co-operation and the 2018 AU/EU MoU on Peace Security and Governance.” … Bah emphasised the importance of EU support in operationalising the African Standby Force (ASF). He named four emerging threats impacting on “continental dynamics.” They are terrorism and violent extremism “now at an unprecedented scale”; unconstitutional changes in government giving Guinea, Mali, Chad, and Burkina Faso as examples; managing transitions such as AMISOM, South Sudan and Central African Republic (CAR); and incorporating climate change and its effects on peace and security. defenseWeb

Seven-Nation Summit in DR Congo to Mull 2013 Peace Accord
Seven African heads of state gathered in Kinshasa on Thursday to assess a 2013 agreement aimed at cementing peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s violence-torn east and the Great Lakes region. The Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework aims at fostering efforts to stabilize the region. Millions of people died from violence, disease or starvation in the 1996-7 and 1998-2003 Congo Wars — a conflict that enmeshed countries from around east and central Africa. The Kinshasa summit, the 10th in the series, brought together the presidents of the DRC, South Africa, Uganda, Angola, the Republic of Congo, Burundi and the Central African Republic, a diplomat said. The summit was expected to express concern about logistical and other support for armed groups that remain active in the region. It would “take note” of joint DRC-Ugandan operations against the most notorious group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the diplomat said. AfricaNews with AFP

UN Expert on Human Rights in Sudan: ‘Violations and Frightening Reports, It Is Time to Stop Them’
The UN expert on human rights in Sudan, Adama Dieng, painted a bleak picture of the human rights situation in Sudan, as a result of the massive violations committed by the security services against peaceful protesters since last October. The UN official called for the State of Emergency to be abolished and to stop the use of live ammunition against the demonstrators. On Thursday, Dieng ended his first visit to Sudan since he was assigned to this file, and held meetings that included officials in the Ministry of Justice and Public Prosecution, and the families of detainees, and visited Soba prison, east of the capital, Khartoum. … He said that he met with families affected by the army’s actions and was informed that the protests against the military coup left 82 dead and “2,000” wounded. He said, “These young people have no desire to destroy their country, but rather hope to put it on the right track, and pledged to end the dictatorship.” He continued, “Women and men are determined to achieve justice and democracy, but these hopes remain just dreams unless there are strong policies and the rule of law prevails.” Radio Dabanga

Nigeria Plans Coordinated Military Assault on Militants in North
Nigeria’s government is planning a coordinated military assault on militants in the north that threaten to make the region ungovernable. Governors from the region are in talks with Nigeria’s defense intelligence agencies to finalize plans on the best approach to remove militants from the area, Kaduna state Governor Nasir El-Rufai told reporters Thursday in a briefing in Abuja, the nation’s capital. Methods being considered include simultaneous military and ground operations, he said. Bloomberg

Tonne of Cocaine ‘Disappears’ under Guinea-Bissau Police Custody
A police chief in Guinea-Bissau said on Thursday that nearly one tonne of cocaine seized by authorities late last year has “disappeared into thin air.” Domingos Monteiro, the director of the judicial police in the West African country, said that officers had seized 980 kilogrammes of cocaine in November 2021, in a smuggling operation whose details remain unclear. “But 975 kilos simply disappeared into thin air,” the police chief told AFP, adding that police and security forces officers are suspected of having appropriated the cocaine. One police officer has been arrested, Monteio said. On Thursday, a trial concerning the trafficking of the one tonne of cocaine began in the capital Bissau, an AFP journalist present said, where seven out of nine suspects appeared in court. It remains unclear whether members of the security forces are among the suspects. AFP

Thousands of African Students Are Stuck in Ukraine
“Everyone is under pressure — there have been explosions in different cities, including my city, Kyiv,” 23-year-old Nigerian student Sarah Ajifa Idachaba, who is studying medicine in the Ukrainian capital along with her older sister, told DW. “Me and my sister are in panic because we don’t know what to expect. We are not safe and we are not sure about leaving here because the airport is shut down,” Idachaba said after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine early on Thursday morning. … Nigerians make up the second biggest group of foreign students in Ukraine. The biggest group are from Morocco with 8,000 students, while Egyptians are in third place with 3,500 students. … Africans make up more than 20% of Ukraine’s international students, studying in many different towns and cities throughout the country. Many are attracted by the country’s good technical and medical schools combined with relatively low fees. These students are also expressing their fear for their safety as explosions were heard in several parts of the country, including Kyiv, the second-largest city, Kharkiv, and the Black Sea port of Odesa on Thursday. DW



Photo: Adam Jones