Africa Media Review for February 8, 2021

Untangling Post-Election Uganda
Uganda’s 2021 presidential election yielded more confusion than clarity following a violent runup, an internet shutdown, and a host of voting irregularities. What is clear is that popular support for the long-ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) has diminished dramatically. Officially, Uganda’s Electoral Commission (EC) declared President Yoweri Museveni the winner of the January 14 election with 53 percent of the first-round vote. This outcome would extend Museveni’s 35-year rule for a sixth term. This result is widely seen as implausible, however. Museveni’s NRM lost seats to the leading opposition party, the National Unity Platform (NUP), by a lopsided margin throughout much of the country in parliamentary and local government elections. … Museveni’s failure to respect term limits is at the heart of Uganda’s growing instability. It has loosened constitutional guardrails, damaged checks and balances, entrenched patronage networks, undermined military professionalism, and instilled a culture of violence and repression predicated on winning elections at all costs. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Somalia: Roadside Bombing Kills at Least 13 after Presidential Talks Break down
At least 13 members of Somalia’s security forces were killed on Sunday in a roadside bombing attack, shortly after emergency talks between Somalia’s politicians failed to end a stalemate over how to select a new president. The bomb hit a convoy belonging to regional intelligence units of the Galmudug state, senior military official General Masud Mohamud said. The convoy had been traveling near the town of Dhusamareeb, which had hosted talks over Somalia’s delayed election. Talks ended without a conclusion on Saturday, just days before the term of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was set to expire. … Among those killed was a senior regional intelligence officer. The Islamist terror group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on its Andalus radio station. The group has ramped up attacks in the Galmudug state in central Somalia as the country’s leaders gathered in Dhusamareeb, north of the capital Mogadishu. DW

Somalia’s Opposition Cease Recognising President as Election Row Escalates
An alliance of Somali opposition parties proposed the creation of a national council of lawmakers, opposition leaders and civil society to govern the war-ravaged Horn of Africa nation after the president’s term expired on Monday with no clear plan for succession. The power vacuum and divisions between political leaders was a boost to the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency, a Somali security analyst warned, citing a spate of recent attacks in a relatively peaceful part of the country. The opposition alliance said they would reject any attempt to extend the term of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and suggested the council could elect a transitional leader to govern until a new president can be chosen by lawmakers. “We are against time extension, suppression, violence and further delay to the election,” the alliance said in a statement. “An election schedule should immediately without delay be displayed with agreed upon specified time.” There was no immediate comment from the presidency. Aides had previously privately floated the idea of extending his term. Reuters

UN-Led Libya Forum Selects New Interim Government
A United Nations-led Libya forum has voted on an interim government, choosing Mohammed al-Menfi as presidency council head and Abdulhamid Dbeibeh as prime minister. The election of a unified administration aims at ending a division in Libya that has lasted for more than five years, with two rival governments, and their affiliated armed groups, running different parts of the North African country. Seventy-four members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), which includes Libyans from different political backgrounds, elected a list that includes the prime minister and the head of the Presidential Council. “On behalf of the United Nations I am pleased to witness this historic moment,” said UN acting Libya envoy Stephanie Williams, who was interrupted by applause. The winning list got 39 votes, which is more than the required 50 percent plus one of the 73 valid votes. One voter abstained. … Addressing the LPDF earlier this week, Dbeibeh said he wanted to focus on uniting and restructuring the country’s military and set up a ministry for national reconciliation and reparation. Al Jazeera

Chadian Moussa Faki Retains Top AU Post
Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat has been re-elected chairperson of the African Union Commission, getting an endorsement from nearly all voting members of the continental bloc. The vote, decided on Saturday evening, saw Mr Faki elected unopposed, something that had always been expected after the AU said he was the only contender. He got 51 votes out of 55 with three abstentions and one other member being ineligible to vote. Faki’s victory is the highest in the African Union’s history and he got 15 more votes that he did last time, even though this vote only went through one round. He will be deputised by Rwandan banker, Dr Monique Nsanzabagwana, who was until Saturday the deputy governor of the Rwandan central bank. Her election went through rounds that were mostly an East African affair. She defeated Uganda’s Prof Pamela Mbabazi and Djibouti’s Hasna Bakarak Daoud. … This week, Faki and his commissioners launched a report, ‘Taking Stock, Charting the Future’, an accountability statement of the African Union Commission and those who were elected in February 2017. The officials said the continental sorely needs to upgrade its early warning system, which it argues will help stop the fighting before it begins. The EastAfrican

AstraZeneca’s Vaccine Does Not Work Well against Virus Variant in South Africa
South Africa halted use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine on Sunday after evidence emerged that the vaccine did not protect clinical trial volunteers from mild or moderate illness caused by the more contagious virus variant that was first seen there. … The developments, coming nearly a week after a million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine arrived in South Africa, were an enormous setback for the country, where more than 46,000 people are known to have died from the virus. … And because the clinical trial participants who were evaluated were relatively young and unlikely to become severely ill, it was impossible for the scientists to determine if the variant interfered with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine’s ability to protect against severe Covid-19, hospitalizations or deaths. The scientists said, however, that they believed the vaccine might protect against more severe cases, based on the immune responses detected in blood samples from people who were given it. If further studies show that to be the case, South African health officials will consider resuming use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, they said. The New York Times

Benin Probes Gun Attack on Opposition Presidential Candidate
A Benin presidential candidate was wounded after shots were fired at his car soon after he filed his papers for the April presidential election, family members and the government said on Saturday. Ganiou Soglo, a former minister and son of ex-president Nicephore Soglo, was wounded on Friday on the way to his farm in Zinvie, 35 kilometers from the West African country’s commercial capital Cotonou. He was one of 19 politicians who have filed papers for the April 11 ballot, including the incumbent Patrice Talon. … The opposition says the election is already fixed in favor of Talon, especially after a new provision of the electoral law requiring each candidate to be formally sponsored by 16 mayors or members of parliament. Critics accuse Talon of leading a country once praised for multi-party democracy down an authoritarian road and say he is behind a crackdown that drove key rivals into exile. During parliamentary elections in April 2019, no opposition parties were allowed to present lists of candidates for the vote. Africa News with AFP

Gunmen Kill 19 in Village Raids in Northwest Nigeria
Nineteen people were killed at the weekend when armed men raided two villages in northwest Nigeria’s Kaduna state, the government said, in the latest violence to hit the region. Gunmen from kidnapping and cattle rustling gangs — called bandits by locals — often raid villages in northwest Nigeria, stealing cattle, kidnapping for ransom, and burning homes after looting supplies. “Kaduna State Government has received reports from security agencies of the killing of 19 citizens in Birnin Gwari and Kajuru local government areas,” Samuel Aruwan, internal affairs commissioner said in a statement. “The citizens were killed by armed bandits at Kutemeshi village in Birnin Gwari and Kujeni village in Kajuru, where several others were left with bullet wounds,” Aruwan said. Late on Saturday, bandits riding on motorcycles killed 14 people and injured others when they invaded Kutemeshi where they looted shops, the official said. On the same day, motorbike-riding gunmen also stormed Kujeni where they killed five people and burnt “several” houses, warehouses, and a church, said Aruwan in the statement. The Defense Post with AFP

DR Congo Militia Kills at Least 12 in New Attack
Fighters believed to belong to the ADF militia have killed at least 12 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east, local sources said Sunday. The gruesome attack took place overnight Friday-Saturday after a month of relative calm in the area. “Fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces massacred farmers from the village of Mabule in their fields,” Donat Kibuana, the administrator of the Beni region in North Kivu province, told AFP. … An army offensive launched in the Rwenzori mountain region had caused a “relative decline” in the number of deadly attacks since early January, administrator Kibuana said. He added that “many villages are empty” of people who have fled the fighting. But the ADF — one of the most violent among dozens of armed groups in the eastern DRC — is believed to have killed 21 civilians on February 5 in Rwenzori. The Defense Post with AFP

Tunisia Demonstrators Defy Lockdown to Protest Police Brutality
Hundreds of protesters backed by Tunisia’s powerful labour union gathered in central Tunis on Saturday, defying a police lockdown that blocked roads in a large area of the capital. The rally was held to mark the anniversary of the 2013 killing of a prominent activist and to protest against police abuses that demonstrators say have imperilled freedoms won in the 2011 revolution. Riot police deployed cordons around the city centre, stopping cars and many people from entering the streets around Avenue Habib Bourguiba, a witness told Reuters news agency. “I lived 10 years in freedom … I am not ready to lose it,” said Haytem Ouslati, a 24-year-old demonstrator. Protesters raised placards condemning police violence and chanted: “No fear. The street belongs to the people.” Unlike previous marches in a wave of protests that have spread across Tunisia in recent weeks, Saturday’s rally was backed by the UGTT union, the country’s most powerful political organisation with a million members. Al Jazeera

Chad Police Clash with Protesters after Deby Nominated for Sixth Term
Police in Chad fired tear gas and made several arrests as hundreds protested President Idriss Deby’s nomination on Saturday to run for a sixth term in April. Deby, 68, who came to power in a 1990 rebellion, pushed through a new constitution in 2018 that reinstated term limits but would let him stay in power until 2033. His opponents accuse him of crippling the country’s institutions in a bid to hold on to power. In the capital N’Djamena, hundreds of protesters set tyres on fire and chanted “No to a sixth term!” and “Leave, Deby!”, according to witnesses. Police fired tear gas and arrested several people, including Mahamat Nour Ibedou, a prominent human rights activist. Protests were also held in the cities of Moundou, Doba, Sarh and Abeche, witnesses said. The protests followed the announcement that the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party had backed Deby’s bid for a sixth term in office. France24 with AFP and Reuters

Filling Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam in July Threatens Sudan’s Security – Minister
Any unilateral step by Ethiopia to fill its hydropower project, called the Renaissance Dam, in July would directly threaten Sudan’s national security, Sudanese Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Yasser Abbas said on Saturday. Sudan is also proposing a mediation role for the United States, European Union, United Nations and African Union as a way of breaking the deadlock in talks about the dam between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia, Abbas told Reuters in an interview. His comments come at a time of increased tension between Sudan and Ethiopia over disputed farmland near their shared border. This is on top of tension over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, close to the border with Sudan. Reuters

DR Congo Announces ‘Resurgence’ of Ebola
DR Congo on Sunday announced a “resurgence” of Ebola in its troubled east after a woman died of the disease, just three months after authorities declared the end of the country’s previous outbreak. The case was recorded in the province of North Kivu in the town of Biena in the Lubero territory, about 1,600km from the capital, Kinshasa. “We have another episode of the Ebola virus” in the Biena health zone of North Kivu province, Health Minister Eteni Longondo told state television RTNC. … The Democratic Republic of Congo declared on November 18 the end of its eleventh Ebola outbreak, which claimed 55 lives out of 130 cases over nearly six months in the northwestern province of Equateur. The last person declared recovered from Ebola in Equateur was on October 16. The widespread use of Ebola vaccinations, which were administered to more than 40,000 people, helped curb the disease. The return of Ebola in the country’s northeast — a region plagued by violence between armed groups — comes as the vast African country is also fighting its own Covid-19 outbreak. AFP

Burkina Faso Hospitals Struggle with New Wave of COVID-19
After managing to avoid a catastrophic initial wave of the virus for various reasons, including that its figures were almost surely undercounted, the conflict-riddled nation, like much of Africa, is trying to cope with a much deadlier resurgence. Although Burkina Faso’s virus figures are still relatively small compared to those in many parts of the world, officials worry that a general lack of understanding and adherence to basic safeguards will make it hard to rein in and could overwhelm the country’s already strained health system. When the pandemic started, Burkina Faso was already suffering from a humanitarian crisis fueled by conflict involving Islamic militants, the army and local defense groups that has displaced more than a million people, pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation and forced the closure of more than 130 health centers in the country roughly the size of Colorado, according to government and aid groups. AP

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Set to Become W.T.O.’s First Female Leader
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an economist and former finance minister of Nigeria, appears set to become the next director general of the World Trade Organization, with the Biden administration announcing its “strong support” for her candidacy on Friday. She would be the first woman and the first African national to lead the organization. Yoo Myung-hee, the South Korean trade minister who was also a finalist for the role, said on Friday that she planned to withdraw herself from consideration, leaving the path open for Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, The Associated Press reported. … In a statement on Friday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala “is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organization with a diverse membership.” … Dr. Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s finance minister, spent 25 years at the World Bank as a development economist and now is the chairwoman of the Center for Global Development, according to the center’s website. The New York Times

Beyond ‘Black Panther’: Afrofuturism Is Booming in Comics
This year, fans of Afrofuturism will see a bumper crop of comics and graphic novels, including the first offerings of a new line devoted to Black speculative fiction and reissues of Afrofuturist titles from comic-book houses like DC and Dark Horse. Afrofuturism, whether in novels, films or music, imagines worlds and futures where the African diaspora and sci-fi intersect. The term was coined by the writer Mark Dery in 1993 and has since been applied to the novels of Octavia Butler (“Kindred”), the musical stylings of the jazz composer Sun Ra and more recently films such as “Get Out” and “Black Panther,” which presented a gorgeously rendered vision of the technologically advanced, vibranium-powered nation of Wakanda. … Comics are particularly well suited for Afrofuturism, Womack said. Many Afrofuturistic narratives are nonlinear, something that comics, with their ability to move and stack panels to play with notions of time, can convey. Comic artists can also employ visual elements such as images from the Black Arts Movement, or figures from Yoruba and Igbo mythology, in ways that aren’t available to prose writers. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones