Africa Media Review for February 9, 2021

Senegal Uncovers Jihadist Cell in East of Country

Senegalese authorities have foiled a jihadist cell linked to al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in Mali, a leading newspaper in the West African state reported on Monday. Gendarmes arrested four men in late January in the eastern town of Kidira, which lies on the border with Senegal’s war-torn neighbor Mali, according to the Liberation newspaper. A shopkeeper who has been under surveillance for two years was among the men who were arrested, it added. The shopkeeper’s telephone number reportedly appeared on a Whatsapp group linked to the Katiba Macina jihadist group. Although he denies affiliation with the group, he is suspected of acting as a recruiter inside Senegal. … Senegal has so far been spared jihadist attacks. However, the United Nations Security Council warned in a report this month that GSIM figures “have established themselves in Senegal.” The Defense Post with AFP

Which Way for Farmaajo? Somalia at Crossroads as Opposition Withdraws Recognition

Having failed to organise elections, and with no deal in sight on when polls can be conducted, Farmaajo will, after February 8, be legally in office only based on a legal motion endorsed by the Federal Parliament in September last year. The motion said all incumbents leave office once new ones are elected and sworn in. It didn’t give timelines though. But it appears the problem is now political. On Sunday night, key stakeholders started warning they will withdraw recognition of Farmaajo as the Head of State, if he chooses to stay on beyond February 8. Abdullahi Hersi, the Puntland State Information Minister, told the media on Sunday that his region will no longer see Farmaajo as the Federal President of Somalia. And the Council of Presidential Candidates, a caucus of opposition politicians seeking to unseat Farmaajo, said it will not recognise his government. They recommended the formation of a “transitional council’ to oversee the implementation of that September 17, 2020 Agreement on indirect elections. Nation

5 Sudanese Ministers Retain Posts as Hamdok Names New Cabinet

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok Monday evening announced the formation of the new government, which included 26 ministerial posts. Hamdok said that the new Cabinet will address crises and prevent the country from collapsing. “We looked at the world around us, so we put a compass in front of us to keep the country from collapsing with this formation, which also accommodates the peace agreement,” Hamdok said during a press conference in Khartoum. He said the new Cabinet was formed through consensus following months of consultations with parties to the peace agreement, and considering criteria such as academic qualification, and practical and administrative experiences. … Since September 8, 2019, Hamdok has headed a transitional government, the first since Omar al-Bashir was ousted on April 11, 2019 following pressure from popular protests over the deteriorating economic conditions. The EastAfrican

Aid Convoy Arrives in CAR Capital after Rebels Blockade

An aid convoy has reached the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR) after a 50-day blockade by rebels who had cut off the city’s lifeline. On December 19, armed groups launched an offensive on the capital, Bangui, cutting off a key highway that left more than 1,500 trucks stranded on the border with neighbouring Cameroon. “Fourteen trucks, nine of them from the UN’s World Food Programme” arrived, said Lieutenant Colonel Abdoulaziz Fall, spokesman for the MINUSCA peacekeeping mission, on Monday. … President Faustin-Archange Touadera depends heavily on UN forces as well as military personnel sent by Russia and Rwanda. Anti-Touadera groups came together in an alliance in the run-up to presidential and legislative elections on December 27. Their advance on Bangui was halted but they retained a chokehold on the key highway to the city, preventing trucks from bringing food and other supplies. The road is essential for nearly all of CAR’s imports, and the price of some basic commodities rose by at least 50 percent in some places. “The first trucks from Cameroon arrived in Bangui under MINUSCA escort,” said Fall. AFP

Ethiopia: Government Approves ‘First Step’ Towards Tigray Emergency Assistance

UN agencies have received approval from the Ethiopian Government for 25 international staff to provide humanitarian assistance inside the country’s conflict-torn Tigray region, the UN Spokesperson said on Monday. “This clearance is a first step towards ensuring that aid workers in Tigray can deliver and ramp up the response given the rapidly rising needs in the region,” Stéphane Dujarric told journalists at the daily press briefing. … Meanwhile, around 60 more humanitarian workers from the UN and non-governmental organizations are awaiting approval in the capital Addis Ababa for deployment to Tigray. They also look forward to rapid authorizations for any further requests put forward. “While we welcome these clearances, we remain deeply concerned about the significant escalation in humanitarian needs in Tigray, where people have endured more than three months of conflict with extremely limited assistance,” said the UN spokesperson. UN News

Floods, Fighting, Famine: Inside South Sudan’s Triple Crisis

Tucked away behind the bend of a swollen river, an hour and a half by motorboat from the region’s main health centre, local residents in the remote South Sudanese village of Lekuangole say their children are starving to death. There’s the three-year-old son of Ngalan Luryen who died of hunger last February after a week hiding in a forest from militiamen. And there’s the nine-year-old grandson of Anna Korok who lost his life in July when conflict split him from his family and left him nothing to eat. “We need food,” Korok told The New Humanitarian during a trip to the village in December. “So children don’t die.” Food experts haven’t collected enough data to formally declare a “famine” in Lekuangole and the surrounding villages. But after months of fighting and torrential floods in this part of South Sudan, the experts – and local officials – say they have little doubt that one is happening here. The New Humanitarian

Ethnic Clashes in Darfur Could Reignite Sudan’s Old Conflict

The gunmen went through the village of Jabal, shooting people. The 36-year-old Baraka was shot to death as he rushed to help a wounded neighbor, his wife and brother said. The attack on Jan. 16 left more than two dozen dead in and around the village. They were among 470 people killed in a days-long explosion of violence between Arab and non-Arab tribes last month in Darfur. The bloodletting stoked fears that Darfur, scene of a vicious war in the 2000s, could slide back into conflict and raised questions over the government’s efforts to implement a peace deal and protect civilians. … The latest burst of violence came just two weeks after the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force that had been in Darfur for a decade ended its mandate, at the request of the transitional government. It was replaced with a much smaller, political mission. … A report by U.N. experts covering March to December said tribal clashes and attacks on civilians increased sharply “in both frequency and scale,” particularly in South Darfur and West Darfur. Acts of sexual and gender-based violence continue to be committed daily and go unaddressed, the report found. AP

‘No Safe Place’ as Violence Grips DR Congo’s Ituri

The United Nations says at least 647 civilians have been killed in such attacks on villages in Ituri province, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), since May 2020. Long-lasting intercommunal grievances over land ownership between Lendu and Hema, the largest ethnic groups in Ituri, are again pushing the two communities into a deadly spiral of violence amid a rapidly deteriorating situation that has seen armed groups carry out increasingly indiscriminate attacks. The destruction of homes, fields, loss of livestock and numerous human rights violations have displaced more than 843,000 people in the last year. The Lendu are largely farmers and hunters, while the Hema have historically been pastoralists. … The violence in Ituri has often been characterised solely by its communal nature, but land disputes are part of the fundamental causes in this rural province. While peace negotiations are at a standstill, villages are burned, women, men and children are raped and maimed. Al Jazeera

He Lost His Leg Protesting for Freedom in Tunisia. a Decade Later, He Hopes His Sacrifice Wasn’t in Vain.

Ten years after the Arab Spring uprisings began in Tunisia with a street vendor’s lonely protest, revolutions elsewhere in the Arab world have ended in failure. Only in Tunisia has a fragile democracy endured. At the heart of its success lies a willingness, unique among those countries buffeted by the uprisings, to compromise and accommodate a range of forces, including Islamist political parties. At critical moments when the Tunisian experiment has appeared to be on a cliff edge — after assassinations or terrorist attacks — dialogue and concession have pulled the country back from the brink. Tunisia’s robust and resilient democratic experiment stands virtually alone in the Arab world. Many other governments, led by monarchs or autocrats, remain fearful of democratic contagion and have stepped up repression of dissent since 2011. … If Tunisia demonstrates that progress can depend on political accommodation, its experience also reveals that compromise can be a curse, muffling forces for change while leaving corrupt or anti-democratic interests intact. The Washington Post

Algeria Orders Investigation into Student Police Abuse Claim

In an unprecedent move, the prosecutor’s office in the Algerian capital has ordered a preliminary investigation into torture and sexual abuse that a student protester claimed during his trial he was subjected to by judicial police. The claim by Walid Nekiche at his trial last Tuesday drew widespread criticism in the media, along with the prosecution’s request for a life sentence for the oceanography student. Nekiche was on trial for “plotting against the state” and possessing tracts against the national interest for his actions in pro-democracy protests. Nekiche was finally sentenced to a year in prison with six months guaranteed behind bars and freed because he had already been held in detention since his November 2019 arrest. But the prosecutor on Sunday ordered an investigation opened into his claims that he had been subjected to “violence and sexual aggression by members of the judicial police” questioning him following his arrest. AP

Coronavirus: Africa’s New Variants Are Causing Growing Concern

Experts believe the emergence of new coronavirus variations in Africa have contributed to an increase in the number of cases in many countries on the continent. There’s also concern that these variants can’t easily be tracked because the type of testing required to identify them isn’t available in most countries. At least 40 countries have now seen a second wave of the pandemic, including all countries in the southern Africa region, says the Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC). “This new wave of infections is thought to be associated with the emergence of variants that are more transmissible.” A new variant of the virus emerged in South Africa last year, and has contributed to record case numbers in the southern African region, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Elsewhere in Africa, this variant has also been officially recorded in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Comoros and Zambia. It’s highly likely to have reached other countries on the continent, but few have the capacity to carry out the specialised genomic sequencing required to detect coronavirus variants. BBC

Tanzania’s COVID-19 Denial Risks Pulling Africa Back

Until recently, Tanzania gave the impression that the coronavirus pandemic — which has brought the world to a standstill — was under control. President John Magufuli assured the 58 million inhabitants of the East African nation that they need not worry about observing COVID-19 preventative measures. … Since December 2020, Tanzanians have grown warier about the pandemic. With rising deaths attributed to “acute pneumonia,” many residents have abandoned carelessness and are taking the virus seriously. Zanzibar’s First Vice President Seif Sharif Hamad was taken ill by the virus, according to his party, ACT Wazalendo, at the end of January. His wife and aides were also infected. That rare admission sent shockwaves across the country, which last gave official statistics for COVID-19 in April 2020. … Tanzania’s refusal to provide COVID-19 data and procure vaccines could endanger the whole continent, according to Africa CDC. “We don’t truly understand how [the] COVID-19 pandemic will evolve. Not cooperating will make it dangerous. This virus has no borders,” Africa CDC director, John Nkengasong, said during an online media briefing. DW

Zimbabwe Loses ‘Coup General’ Douglas Nyikayaramba to COVID-19

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Mozambique, Retired Lieutenant-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, has died of Covid-19, state television said on Tuesday. As Zimbabwe National Army Chief of Staff, Ambassador Nyikayaramba was instrumental in the coup that toppled President Robert Mugabe in 2017. Meanwhile, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has appointed a top diplomat as the new Foreign Affairs minister as he moves to replace members of his Cabinet who succumbed to Covid-19 last month. Zimbabwe last month lost three ministers to Covid-19, which brought the number of senior officials who have succumbed to the virus to four, since the first case was recorded last year. The President redeployed Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Nations, Fraderick Shava, to replace the late Foreign Affairs minister Retired Lieutenant General Sibusiso Moyo. Nation

At Least 12 Un Peacekeepers Killed in 2020 in Line of Duty

Twelve United Nations personnel and three civilian staff members were killed in the line of duty in 2020, bringing the total number of deaths over the last decade to 440, according to findings of the Standing Committee for the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service of the United Nations Staff Union. In a press release Monday, the organization said the deliberate killings involved the use of improvised explosive devices and other weapons, targeted assassinations and suicide attacks. “We learn time and time again of the many colleagues serving around the world in the most dangerous places who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the United Nations flag,” said Patricia Nemeth, president of the U.N. Staff Union. Four of those killed were from Burundi, and three were from Chad. Three other peacekeepers who died were Egyptian citizens, one Indonesian and a Rwandan. The civilians killed were from the Central African Republic, Myanmar and Syria. VOA

UN-EU Counter-Terrorism Partnership for Sudan Launched

The United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) has announced that the UN-EU Counter-Terrorism Partnership for Sudan was launched today, together with Sudan and through its National Commission for Counter-Terrorism (SNCCT). The first capacity-building activity focused on countering the financing of terrorism has been held within this framework. According to a statement by UNOCT today, the event was opened by Sayed Altyeb, Representative of Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who extended thanks and appreciation to UNOCT and the European Union for developing and financing this constructive programme. “There is no doubt that the noble goals that this programme seeks to achieve, are completely in the context of the efforts adopted by the Sudanese government aimed at raising awareness, building knowledge and providing support to combat terrorism, and developing strategies and programmes that transform these hopes into reality,” he added. Radio Dabanga

Africa’s Hit Science Show for Kids Is Coming to the U.S.

Lorraine Ololia is 10. She lives in Kampala, Uganda. And she recently came up with a new career goal. A TV show about science, produced by teachers from her junior high school, has inspired her. She’s watched an episode on computer programming, another where two young explorers visit her country’s Lake Victoria to talk about wetlands and learned how to make a model of a digestive tract at home using bowls, crackers, water, food coloring, bananas and oranges. She’s even appeared on the show, making and launching a rocket with her friend Samantha. And now she wants to pursue a career in science. “It’s boys who do all the fun stuff and sometimes a girl like me gets a little left out,” she says. “But girls can be scientists and go to the moon.” The show is called N*Gen (pronounced “engine), or Next Generation Television. NPR