Africa Media Review for January 11, 2021

Six French Soldiers Wounded in Latest Suicide Bomb Attack in Mali
The six were injured in an explosion on Friday in the volatile “Three Borders” region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. They were taken to the military hospital in the northern Malian city of Gao, and three of them will return to France over the weekend. The six, all members of the French Barkane anti-Islamist operation, were injured in the explosion of a car bomb, reportedly driven by a suicide attacker. The official military statement says the French soldiers were on board an armoured personnel carrier, patrolling with members of the Malian armed forces. The convoy was approached by an unidentified vehicle driven at high speed, and the French manouvred to block the road to protect other members of the group. The driver of the unidentified vehicle then set off an explosion. … This is the third attack to target French peacekeepers in Mali since the end of December, with five soldiers losing their lives. RFI

Report: Hospitals in Ethiopia’s Tigray Struck by Artillery
Many of the hospitals in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, outside its capital, have been struck by artillery during the two months of fighting, according to the first humanitarian assessment of the devastation as aid begins to arrive with desperately needed supplies. The scale of the damage has been largely unknown while Ethiopian forces pursue and clash with those of the now-fugitive Tigray regional leaders, with the involvement of troops from neighboring Eritrea. Transportation and communications links were severed. More than 50,000 people have fled to Sudan, some telling The Associated Press of mass abductions, torture and killings along ethnic lines. The United Nations and rights groups have long emphasized that intentional attacks on hospitals are war crimes. The assessment does not say who fired at hospitals; the U.N. humanitarian agency said it did not have confirmation of such details. AP

Africa Exceeds 3 Million COVID-19 Cases, 30% in South Africa
Africa passed the milestone of 3 million confirmed cases COVID-19 on Sunday, including more than 72,000 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. South Africa, with more than 1.2 million reported cases, including 32,824 deaths, accounts for more than 30% of the total for the continent of 54 countries and 1.3 billion people. The high proportion of cases in South Africa, could be because the country carries out more tests than many other African countries. South Africa is battling a resurgence of the disease, driven by a variant of the virus that is more contagious and spreading quickly. Many hospitals are reaching capacity, yet the numbers of those infected are expected to continue rising, according to health experts. AP

‘South Africa is Going to Get a Third Wave of Coronavirus, Even a Fourth’
South Africa is struggling to contain a second wave of Covid-19 infections, fuelled by a virulent new local variant of the virus, “Covid fatigue” and a series of “super-spreader” events. On Thursday health officials announced 844 deaths and 21,832 new cases in a 24-hour period, the worst toll yet. Experts believe the second wave has yet to reach its peak in the country of 60 million, and fear healthcare services in the country’s main economic and cultural hub may struggle to cope with the influx of patients. Unlike wealthier countries, South Africa cannot afford to repeat the hard lockdown imposed last year, which caused massive economic and social damage. Some predict a third wave when winter comes in the southern hemisphere in May and June and there are fears that current vaccines may be less effective against the new variant. “We are going to get a third wave, even a fourth. This pandemic has only just started,” said Tivani Mashamba, professor of diagnostic research at the University of Pretoria. The Guardian

UN: Ethiopia’s Victory Claim Doesn’t Mean War is Finished
Ethiopia’s announcement that it has completed its military offensive in its defiant Tigray region “does not mean the conflict is finished,” the UN refugee chief said Sunday, adding he is very concerned about the fate of nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees there amid reports that some have been abducted. If confirmed, such treatment of refugees in camps close to the Tigray border with Eritrea “would be major violations of international norms,” Filippo Grandi told reporters. “It is my strong appeal for the prime minister of Ethiopia for this situation to be addressed as a matter of urgency.” Nearly a month of fighting between Ethiopian federal forces and Tigray regional ones has threatened to destabilize Ethiopia, the linchpin of the strategic Horn of Africa, and its neighbors. The involvement of Eritrea in the conflict has been alleged by refugees and the now-fugitive Tigray leaders but, like much in the sealed-off region, has not been verified. Meanwhile, in a rare report from inside the Tigray capital of Mekele, the International Committee of the Red Cross said a major hospital in northern Ethiopia, Ayder Referral Hospital, is lacking body bags while some 80 percent of its patients have trauma injuries. AP

UN Officials Say Fair Elections Unlikely in Uganda
U.N. officials warn prevailing political conditions in Uganda are stacked against the likelihood of free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections later this week. The lead-up to Uganda’s national elections has been marred by increasing violence, numerous human rights violations, and restrictions imposed on opposition candidates and supporters. Spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani says the deteriorating human rights situation in the country is likely to discourage people from voting. This, she says raises the prospect of continued unrest after the election. “Numerous human rights violations have been reported, including of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and participation, as well as arbitrary deprivation of life, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture. … Indeed, harassment, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention of opposition candidates and supporters have been worrying developments during the electoral campaign.”she said. VOA

Military Takes Charge in Uganda as Tensions Rise ahead of Polls
Uganda’s security agencies on Friday warned of firm action against any dissent ahead of and during this week’s election after the military took over law enforcement operations. The country goes to the polls on Thursday to elect a president and members of parliament following a campaign marred by unprecedented violence in which at least 60 people have been killed in election-related violence, hundreds injured and more than 800 arrested. Heavily armed security forces, including the army and military police, could be seen patrolling the capital Kampala and other towns, and have occupied several open spaces. … The opposition reject claims they are planning violence and say the military deployments are an attempt to intimidate voters and opposition supporters in order to suppress voter turnout and enable vote-rigging. The East African

Six Rangers Killed in DR Congo’s Virunga National Park
Six park rangers have been killed after an attack at the famous Virunga National Park in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Officials have blamed the attack on a militia group known as Mai-Mai, one of many that operate in the region. The rangers were ambushed while on foot patrol inside the park, a spokesperson told the BBC. Staff working in the park, which is home to endangered mountain gorillas, have often come under attack. In April last year 13 rangers were killed in a rebel ambush. A statement from the park said preliminary investigations suggested the rangers “were taken by surprise and had no opportunity to defend themselves” during the Sunday morning attack. It said another ranger who was seriously injured in the attack was receiving treatment and expected to make a full recovery. A local government delegate Alphonse Kambale told AFP news agency that two Mai-Mai militants had also been killed. Nearly 700 armed rangers work in Virunga – Africa’s oldest nature reserve – where at least 200 have been killed in attacks going back more than a decade, AFP reports. BBC

French Jets Fly over CAR as Tens of Thousands Flee Vote Tensions
French fighter jets have flown over the Central African Republic (CAR) for the first time since last month’s disputed presidential election amid rising concern as violence and insecurity has forced tens of thousands of people to flee into neighbouring countries. The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday the flight took place at the request of CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera and with permission of the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) in the country. Macron had condemned recent acts of violence during a phone call with Touadera, his office said, an apparent reference to a rebel advance which Touadera and the UN say has been mounted by former President Francois Bozize to thwart the election. Touadera was declared the winner of the December 27 election with more than 50 percent of votes cast in a single round, avoiding a runoff against any of 16 challengers. Many of the opposition candidates have demanded the election be annulled and for the vote to be repeated, citing irregularities and low turnout following violent clashes. Al Jazeera

Cameroon Deploys Troops as Separatists Threaten African Nations Championship
In Cameroon, one week ahead of the African Nations Soccer Championship, officials have deployed troops to protect players from across Africa as separatists vow to stop the games in restive English-speaking regions. The government is assuring football fans from across Africa that the games will be safe and that measures have also been taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. … Thomas Ndive Mulungo, president of the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) in the English-speaking South West region, where Limbe is located, says people are anxiously waiting for the tournament to begin. … But separatists have warned on Social Media that countries taking part in the championship should not go to the South West region. The separatists, in messages on Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp, say the English-speaking regions are crisis-prone and the safety of the teams cannot be assured there. VOA

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia Say Talks on Disputed Dam Deadlocked
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia failed to achieve a breakthrough in the African Union-led talks to revolve their years-long dispute over the controversial dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, the three countries announced on Sunday. Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations met online for the second time in a week in efforts to find an agreed approach to resume their talks focused on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam. Sunday’s meeting, held over videoconference, failed to find common ground to more forward, “because of differences over how to resume the talks and procedural aspects related to the negotiating process,” Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement. … Key questions in the negotiations remain on how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the three countries would settle any future disputes. Egypt and Sudan call for a legally binding agreement on the dam’s filling and operation, while Ethiopia insists on guidelines. AP

Zimbabwe Police Arrest Journalist for Third Time in 6 Months
Prominent Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono appeared in court Saturday after police arrested him for “peddling falsehoods.” Media monitor groups fear Chin’ono’s arrest — his third in six months — may be part of efforts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to stifle freedom of expression on social media. Chin’ono arrived Saturday at the Harare Magistrate’s Court in full personal protective equipment (PPE), complaining about his continued “persecution.” “Because we tell them the truth, we comment about corruption, they look for frivolous charges to throw at me,” he said. “But as a journalist I am covered by the law.” He sat for close to four hours as prosecutors looked for PPE to wear before proceeding with his case. Chin’ono said he has been in contact with two people who have since tested positive for coronavirus. Harrison Nkomo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told reporters that his client, Chin’ono, would be acquitted of the latest charge of “peddling falsehoods.” “We are challenging placement of Hopewell on remand,” he said. “The basis of our challenge is that they are proceeding in respect of a piece of legislation, which was repealed. …”In 2014, Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court removed from the country’s statutes the criminalization of the publication of false statements undermining public confidence in the uniformed forces. VOA

Nigeria’s Embassies, High Commissions Reel under Corruption Allegations
Nigeria’s embassies and high commissions across the world are reeling under the burden of corruption, extortion and passport racketeering, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has alleged. Amid these allegations, CISLAC, the national chapter of Transparency International (TI), urged the federal government to urgently reform foreign services and review foreign policy in line with the country’s core national interests. CISLAC’s Executive Director, Mr. Auwal Rafsanjani made this allegation while speaking with THISDAY from the United States at the weekend on the failure of the federal government to pay attention to its foreign missions worldwide. Also yesterday, the federal government disputed a report that linked the Embassy of Nigeria in France with passport racketeering. Speaking with THISDAY on Friday, Rafsanjani alleged that many Nigerians abroad “are complaining that they cannot even get their passports after they have made payment. “Too much corruption and extortion is going on in our foreign missions, especially with respect to services that Nigerians are supposed to get.” … In a statement by its spokesman, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye yesterday, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected a report published by a national daily that linked the Embassy of Nigeria in France with passport racketeering. This Day Live

Algeria’s ex-PM Admits Selling Gold Bars from Gulf Donors on Black Market
Former Algerian premier Ahmed Ouyahia, on trial for corruption, has admitted receiving gold bars from Gulf donors then selling them on the black market, the official APS news agency reported. Ouyahia and fellow ex-prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal are accused of covertly financing the 2019 re-election bid of then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned shortly afterwards amid mass anti-government protests. Their retrial opened on Saturday after the Supreme Court in November annulled their earlier convictions following an appeal, APS said. Both had served under Bouteflika. Several former ministers and other well-known figures are also on trial over the same affair. … The trial of Ouyahia and Sellal in December 2019 was the first in a series of high-profile corruption cases launched after Bouteflika resigned earlier that year. It was also the first time since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962 that former prime ministers had been put on trial. Ouyahia was prime minister four times between 1995 and 2019, and had been sentenced to 15 years behind bars. Al Jazeera

The Gambia Discovers 3 Tonnes of Cocaine in Salt Shipment
Law enforcement officers in The Gambia discovered nearly three tonnes of cocaine in a salt shipment from Ecuador, its drugs agency said Friday, in the tiny West African country’s largest-ever seizure. Officers searching a container in the port of the capital Banjul on Thursday found 118 bags of the illegal white powder, which were labelled as industrial salt, according to a statement from The Gambia’s Drug Law Enforcement Agency (DLEAG). The container was part of a consignment of four containers originating from the Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil. Lamin Gassama, DLEAG’s intelligence director, told AFP that the 2.9 tonnes represented the largest ever drugs haul in The Gambia — a poor nation of some two million people, and the smallest on mainland Africa. … West Africa is an important transit region for cocaine trafficked from South America into Europe, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Seizure of the narcotic across the African continent rose from 1.2 tonnes in 2015 to 5.6 tonnes in 2018, the agency said in a report in June. AFP