Africa Media Review for February 3, 2021

Confronting Nigeria’s Kaduna Crisis
Kaduna State in North West Nigeria has experienced a near tripling of violent incidents involving armed groups in the past year. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, the 220 violent events have resulted in nearly a thousand fatalities. … Over the last year, Kaduna has recorded the highest number of episodes of political violence and fatalities in northern Nigeria, save Borno State—the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency. Kaduna’s security crisis revolves around three different but overlapping threats. The first relates to the farmer-herder conflict that involves growing tensions over access to land and its use between communities. The second threat comes from armed gangs engaged in criminal activities, including kidnapping for ransom, arms dealing, cattle rustling, and highway robbery. … The final threat is from violent extremism. … The failure to differentiate between and develop appropriate local responses to each of the threats driving insecurity in Kaduna risks further exacerbating this escalating crisis. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Armed Group in DR Congo Blamed for Spike in Deaths, Rights Violations
A U.N. report finds an alarming surge in human rights violations and civilian deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces. It blames the surge on increased attacks by an armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The ADF originated as a Ugandan rebel group in the 1990s but has been active mainly in eastern Congo in recent years. The new report accuses ADF members of deliberately targeting civilian populations, of sexual abuse and of abducting hundreds of civilians to perform forced labor. The U.N. Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC says last year the group killed at least 849 civilians in Irumu and Mambasa territory in Ituri province as well as in Beni in North Kivu. U.N. human rights monitors report the ADF also kidnapped 534 civilians, of whom 457 are still missing. VOA

Tshisekedi Supporters Move to Remove Kabila Ally in DRC Senate
Prosecutors and senators in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have reportedly launched new moves against the camp of former President Joseph Kabila just days after the removal of a prime minister loyal to him. More than 60 of the Senate’s 100 members demanded the resignation of Kabila ally and upper house leader Alexis Thambwe Mwamba in a letter, seen by Reuters news agency… . Tuesday’s actions mark the latest move by allies of President Felix Tshisekedi to weaken his predecessor’s lingering power. In recent months, Tshisekedi has chipped away at the influence of Kabila, with whom he had an awkward political alliance following a disputed 2018 election. … the new president had been forced to bargain over policies with Kabila, who maintained extensive control across state institutions and security services. … Mwamba’s fall would be the latest setback for Kabila loyalists following the resignation of pro-Kabila Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba last month, after a successful censure motion in the National Assembly, where the majority of MPs appeared to rally behind Tshisekedi’s new Sacred Union of the Nation group. Al Jazeera

Somalia Holds Emergency Talks over Election Crisis
Somalia has opened urgent talks with regional authorities to avoid a constitutional crisis. The Horn of Africa nation looks certain to miss a February 8 deadline to elect a new president. … Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohammed, has convened an urgent 3-day meeting with federal state leaders. The conference in Dusamareb, some 400 km (250 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, is an attempt to break an election deadlock and avoid a constitutional crisis. The mandate of President Mohamed Abdullahi, commonly known as Farmajo, expires on February 8. … The legislative and parliamentary votes originally scheduled for 2020, have been postponed twice because of wrangling over election details between the central government in Mogadishu and the semi-autonomous federal member states. … The UN in Somalia said it welcomed the Dusamareb conference and urged those attending to come to an agreement on how the elections should proceed. DW

Old Rivalries and New Fighting in CAR
Hundreds of internally displaced people (IDPs) from the town of Batangafo in the Central African Republic (CAR) who were sheltering for years in Bouca, some 100km (62 miles) south, have shared their stories of hardship after being forced to flee back in recent weeks amid fresh unrest in the conflict-hit country. The CAR has struggled to find stability since 2013, when a former Seleka rebel alliance overthrew then-President Francois Bozize. Anti-balaka militias struck back, and CAR has since descended into a spiral of violence that forced hundreds of thousands from their homes and created a hotchpotch of armed groups that still control large swaths of the country. Some of these armed groups, including those that were supposedly sworn enemies, recently teamed up to create the so-called Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) opposing the central government that is based in the capital, Bangui. … The Batangafo IDPs had been living in Bouca since 2014 but began fleeing after fighting broke out between two Anti-balaka factions – one based in Bouca and one from Batangofo that had joined the CPC and was crossing the town on its way towards Bangui. Old rivalries between the groups fuelled the events that followed. Al Jazeera

Uganda: Bobi Wine Lists 26 Grounds in Petition against Museveni’s Win
Ugandan politician Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, who was the runner-up in last month’s presidential election, Wednesday asked the country’s Supreme Court to annul the victory of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. Wine also wants the judges to declare that the Electoral Commission (EC) failed to conduct the January 14 General Election in accordance with the law and, as such, Mr Museveni was not validly elected. … He argues that the government refused or neglected to cause amendment of relevant laws which would have ensured free and fair elections as earlier directed by the Supreme Court in the Amama Mbabazi Vs Yoweri Museveni presidential poll petition of 2016. … Bobi Wine accuses Mr Museveni of allowing security agencies such as UPDF and police to commit murder, cause grievous bodily harm, violence, abduction and intimidation against NUP agents and supporters cross the country. He cites an incident where security forces wilfully and unlawfully obstructed him at the nomination centre in Kyambogo by pepper-spraying, brutalising and abducting him in a dehumanising manner. Daily Monitor

Malawi Setting up Field Hospitals to Cope with Virus Surge
Malawi faces a resurgence of COVID-19 that is overwhelming the southern African country where a presidential residence and a national stadium have been turned into field hospitals in efforts to save lives. President Lazarus Chakwera, just six months in office, lost two Cabinet ministers to COVID-19 in January amid a surge that led him to declare a state of national disaster in all of Malawi’s 28 districts. Chakwera declared three days of national mourning over the deaths of the ministers of transport and local government, which shocked the nation and inspired a raft of new measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus in a country with a poor health system. A more contagious strain of the coronavirus first reported in South Africa has since been confirmed in Malawi. … The presidential residence State House in the southern city of Zomba soon will be turned into a 100-bed treatment facility, according to officials. A 300-bed field hospital at Bingu National Stadium has begun admitting patients. AP

Nigeria to Add More Protections for Health Care Workers Following Surge in COVID-19 Infections
Nigerian authorities are pledging to provide more protection for health care workers following an increase in COVID-19 cases among the group. Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, said Monday the positive coronavirus test of 75 health care workers in the past week is worrisome. Ihkekweazu is urging health care personnel to exercise caution and suspect COVID-19 in every case until it is ruled out. He warned that even then the risk of infection still exists. Ihekweazu also said the NCDC will soon make available rapid diagnostic test kits in more health facilities as an additional form of protection. … The Nigerian Medical Association has confirmed at least 20 doctors have died from the virus within a one-week period last month. Nigeria has confirmed more than 131,000 COVID-19 infections and 1,607 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University Covid Resource Center. VOA

North Nigeria City in Dark for Week after ISWAP Sabotages Supply Lines
Residents of the northeastern Nigerian city Maiduguri have been struggling with a power blackout for a week after jihadists blew up supply lines, causing water shortages and disrupting businesses and daily life. The attack was the third time in a month that the IS-linked Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group have plunged the city of three million into darkness for days by blowing up transmission lines. Maiduguri’s latest troubles came as President Muhammadu Buhari replaced his top four military commanders, in a sudden overhaul after months of criticism over the handling of the country’s decade-long insurgency. Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, has been without power since January 26 after the jihadists blew up a power grid just outside the city, according to residents and sources at the power company. Bukar Musa, a welder, has seen his business crippled by the power outage, forcing him to look for menial jobs to feed his wife and three children. The Defense Post with AFP

US Africa Command Visit Concludes with Sudan, DRC
A US Africa Command delegation visit led by Ambassador Andrew Young, deputy to the commander for civil-military engagement, and US Navy Rear Admiral Heidi Berg to Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo concluded on 30 January. The trip occurred during a critical time for Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as both countries navigate paths toward democracy and civilian-led governments. “Engagements renewed partnerships between the US and these African nations and provided opportunities to discuss commonalities, shared values, pursue mutual interests, and strengthen the regional capacity of these nations to address security challenges,” Africa Command said. “We engaged with governments, militaries, the media, and civil society on this engagement to strengthen understanding and deepen relationships with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan,” said Young. … “US Africa Command understands the importance of combating terrorism and piracy, malign activities, and ensuring safe seas and waterways for shipping and commerce,” said Berg. “Cooperation aimed at addressing areas of shared concern is a common interest. defenceWeb

British Troops Begin Missions in Mali Amid Islamist Insurgency
British troops sent to Mali as part of an international force facing an Islamist insurgency have started carrying out missions in an area which has seen extensive jihadist violence and had come under attack recent attacks. Around 200 troops and 60 armoured cars took part in their first reconnaissance and intelligence gathering patrol in a conflict which has drawn in al-Qaeda and Isis against a background of political turbulence in the country following a military coup. The 300 British troops, part of a UN peacekeeping force, are operating under a Chinese senior officer in the local chain of command at Gao, in the east of the country. Beijing started sending troops to Mali two years ago to join the UN Minusma mission: it currently has a contingent of around 430 include combat troops guarding the multinational force and also staffing a hospital at the headquarters. … The base at Gao, along with those in the cities of Kidal and Menaka, were hit by rocket fire earlier this week. It was the first time international forces several hundred miles apart had been targeted in a coordinated assault. Independent

Eight Killed in Gang Attack on Burkina Faso Gold Miners
Eight people, including a teenage schoolboy, were killed during an armed robbery on an informal gold mine in southwestern Burkina Faso, security and judicial sources say. Robbers on Sunday evening attacked the site at Djikando, about 10 kilometers (six miles) from the town of Gaoua, a police officer told AFP late Monday. “The gang opened fire — first they shot in the air and then aimed at the miners,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Clashes erupted after the hold-up when local people set fire to the miners’ installations, blaming them for causing deaths. “In all, eight people were killed, including a schoolboy of 15,” he said. The director of medico-technical services at the Gaoua central hospital, Dr. Florent Roch Banazaro, said 29 people were being treated for injuries, “mostly caused by firearms and machetes.” … Gold mining has in the past dozen years become a strategic activity in Burkina Faso, a poor country of 20 million people traditionally dependent on cotton exports for foreign currency. The Defense Post with AFP

Burkina Faso’s Teen Miners Brave Danger to Strike Gold
In Burkina Faso, many children who left school following threats by Islamic militants are working in the country’s informal gold mines, where they risk being harmed by accidents. Here in Bouda, a dusty, noisy gold mine in northern Burkina Faso, miners eke out a meager living working in dangerous conditions and living in makeshift shelters. Burkina Faso is Africa’s fifth largest gold producer, but between 700 and 1,000 of its mines are informal. Children are among those working at these sites. Among them is Aziz Zabré, who left school two years ago to become a miner. … But the mines are not safe from terrorists, either. Militants attack them and demand a cut of the revenue to fund their fight against the Burkina Faso government. Meanwhile, efforts are under way to help children forced to leave school by the conflict. U.N. representatives say they are taking a multifaceted approach to return all the country’s children to school. Karim Sankara is a UNICEF program officer who says the organization supports the formation of policies, training and actors in the municipalities to carry out a plan that is sensitive to children’s rights. VOA

LRA: ICC Ready to Rule on Ex-Child Soldier Accused of War Crimes
A former militia leader from Uganda may become the first defendant at the international criminal court to be found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity – despite being both an alleged perpetrator and victim of the same offences. Dominic Ongwen, 41, faces life in prison if he is convicted on charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, abduction and torture committed as a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a violent cult which waged a bloody campaign of violence in Uganda and neighbouring countries from the mid-1980s until only a few years ago. But lawyers for Ongwen, the first former child soldier to be in the dock in The Hague, have argued that as the 41-year-old was abducted by the LRA when only 10, he should not be punished for acts he committed under duress. The verdict, due on 4 February, is one of the most momentous in the ICC’s 18-year history, but raises difficult questions of responsibility and blame. The Guardian

Liberia’s Long Wait for Justice after 14 Years of Bloodshed
Liberia’s back-to-back civil wars were some of the bloodiest in African history, leaving an estimated 250,000 dead after 14 years of appalling bloodshed. Although the fighting ended in 2003, very few of those responsible for war crimes have been tried. The conflicts were marked by mass murders, rape and mutilations, with warlords using child soldiers. Atrocities against civilians were common with drugged-up fighters chopping off people’s limbs. No one has been prosecuted in Liberia itself, with many of the guiltiest still powerful figures there. But cases are underway in other countries, with Finland putting Gibril “Angel Gabriel” Massaquoi — a Sierra Leone rebel who fought in Liberia — on trial Wednesday accused of murder, rape and recruiting children. It follows France and Switzerland putting two other commanders in the dock in December. … Massaquoi is accused of murder, rape and recruiting child soldiers between 1999 and 2003 when he held a senior position in the Revolutionary United Front, a Sierra Leone rebel group that fought in Liberia. AFP

From France to Rwanda’s Hills, the Husband-and-Wife Genocide Hunters
A stunned silence, and then cries of joy ring out in the green Bisesero hills. Survivors of one of the most terrible episodes of the genocide in Rwanda have just spotted Alain Gauthier — their lifeline to justice. “I’ve come to say ‘turikumwe’ (“we are together”) and that you mustn’t lose heart or hope,” the 72-year-old Frenchman tells them. His brow burnt from the relentless sun, Gauthier has travelled nearly 9,000 kilometres (5,600 miles) to bring news to the people of this remote village. A genocide suspect from their region is due to be tried in France, he tells them, as he is warmly embraced by Tutsi herders who have come to know him well. With his Rwandan-born wife Dafroza, 66, Gauthier has devoted decades of his life to tracking down genocide suspects who have found refuge in France. They have become nicknamed “The Klarsfelds of Rwanda” after Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, fighting to prevent evil from being consigned to a footnote of history. So far, the Gauthiers’ efforts have led to about 30 legal cases being initiated in France against Rwandan suspects, all of them men. AFP



Photo: Adam Jones