Africa Media Review for January 20, 2022

Sudan Protester Shot Dead as US Envoys Visit
Sudanese security forces shot dead an anti-coup protester on Wednesday as American diplomats visited Khartoum seeking to help end a crisis which has claimed dozens of lives and derailed the country’s democratic transition. For two days shops have shuttered and protesters have blockaded streets in a civil disobedience campaign to protest the killing of seven people during a demonstration on Monday, one of the bloodiest days since the 25 October military coup. The latest killing took place in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman where protesters opposed to the coup had set up barricades. Pro-democracy medics from the Doctors’ Committee said the protester was shot in the torso “by live bullets of the (security) forces”. Witnesses also reported the use of tear gas by security forces in Omdurman and eastern Khartoum. The death brings to 72 the number of people killed in a security crackdown against protesters who have taken to the streets – sometimes in the tens of thousands – calling for a return to the country’s democratic transition and opposing the latest military putsch. AFP

Sudan’s Burhan Forms Caretaker Government
Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan Commander in Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces Wednesday tasked ministerial undersecretaries with the duties of ministers within the framework of a caretaker government. The Sudan News Agency, SUNA, in a separate report, added that al-Burhan tasked the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers Osman Hussein with the duties of the Prime Minister. These decision aims to prepare for holding elections in the country, said the official agency. The National Charter group which is allied with the military component recently called in several statements to form a caretaker government. Al-Burhan and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo “Hemetti” held a meeting with the undersecretaries to brief them on the situation in Sudan and his efforts to settle the ongoing crisis, said the agency. Sudan Tribune

Attacks in Darfur and Chad Leave Three Dead, More than 40 Injured
Three men were killed and 20 people were injured in Darfur last weekend. In eastern Chad, 21 women refugees from Darfur were attacked with knives. In an armed robbery near Seleia in West Darfur on Saturday evening, two people were killed and three others were injured, Mohamed Abakar told Radio Dabanga. Gunmen riding on motorcycles shot at a passenger vehicle in the area of Jeljela, five kilometres from Seleia. “Abubakar Ibrahim and Ahmed Awad were killed instantly, Abdelmajed Adam, Jaber Ibrahim and Abubakar Siddig were wounded,” Abakar said. “The attackers then told the passengers to disembark, take the dead with them, and they themselves took the vehicle with the luggage and fled.” … In neighbouring Chad, a group of 21 Darfur refugee women were attacked on Sunday afternoon. “Men carrying knives assaulted the women when they left the Mile camp to collect firewood,” a refugee told Radio Dabanga. Radio Dabanga

Tunisian Police Killed Man in First Death of Protests, Opposition Says
A Tunisian man died in hospital on Wednesday from injuries inflicted by police, activists and the main opposition Ennahda party said, in what would be the first death related to protests against President Kais Saied’s assumption of extra powers. A Tunis court investigating the death said the man, found in a coma on Mohamed V Street in the capital, was taken to hospital on Friday and died on Wednesday. A court statement made no mention of whether the man was one of the demonstrators. … There was no immediate comment from the interior ministry. The Ennahda Islamist party said in a statement, however, that Ridha Bouziane, who is one of its members, was subjected to severe violence, which resulted in severe bleeding in his brain. Police deployed water cannons and batons against protesters on Friday, as Saied faced growing discontent over his suspension of parliament last July and subsequent rule by decree. … Saied has said he will uphold all freedoms during a transitional period to a new constitution later this year. Reuters

UN Chief Lauds ‘Demonstrable Effort to Make Peace’ in Ethiopia
The UN Secretary-General on Wednesday said he was “delighted” to learn that “a demonstrable effort to make peace” in Ethiopia is finally underway, according to information relayed to him by the African Union High Representative for the Horn of Africa. According to a statement released by his Spokesperson, António Guterres spoke on the phone with the former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to exchange views on the conflictthat has affected millions of people across the country and the rest of the region,since fighting began in Tigray, in November 2020. During the conversation, Mr. Obasanjo briefed the Secretary-General about his latest visit to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and the capital of the regional state of Tigray, Mekelle. In the call, Mr. Obasanjo also “expressed optimism that there is now a real opportunity for political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict.” Despite this optimism, the UN chief believes ongoing military operations “remain a challenge to the peace process and sour the confidence building measures that we hope are being taken by all parties in the conflict.” He also reiterated his call on all parties to rapidly end hostilities as a step in the right direction for peace-making.  “The United Nations stands ready to support an all-inclusive and nationally owned dialogue, peace, security, and reconciliation process in Ethiopia”, he said. UN News

France Mulls Ending Military Support for Mali as Relations with Junta Worsen
As relations between France and Mali sour rapidly, Paris is wondering whether it is time to stop providing military backup to a country run by a junta that has defied the international community. France, which first deployed troops in the West African country nine years ago to fight a jihadist insurgency, has spent around €880 million a year on a mission that has cost 52 French soldiers their lives. More than 4,000 French forces are stationed in the Sahel region of West Africa, most of them in Mali, one of the world’s poorest nations. Paris has already started reducing its presence, hoping to halve the contingent by the summer of 2023, and has asked its European Union allies to provide more support. It also said it would keep bases in Gao, Menaka and Gossi. But that was before ties really deteriorated in the aftermath of a coup mounted by strongman Colonel Assimi Goïta in August 2020 and a subsequent tightening of the military’s grip on the country. … France’s chief complaint is the regime’s refusal to organise early elections to bring in a civilian government. France24

Landlocked Mali Turns to Neighbors to Sidestep Trade Sanctions
Mali says it’s secured support from Guinea and Mauritania to sidestep sanctions that are threatening the landlocked West African nation’s ability to import goods. A delegation of Malian ministers traveled to the neighboring nations this week and visited their ports, the government said in a statement Wednesday. The trip comes after the Economic Community of West African States imposed sanctions on Mali over its failure to organize presidential elections following an August 2020 military coup. … The 15-nation Ecowas bloc announced on Jan. 9 it was freezing Malian assets held at the region’s central bank and by commercial lenders in member-states. It also suspended non-essential financial transactions and ordered land borders be closed, calling on all of Mali’s neighbors to do the same to pressure the military-led government to restore democratic rule. Mauritania isn’t a member of the regional bloc and Guinea was suspended last year in response to a separate coup in that country. Bloomberg

Gambian President Barrow Vows Economic Progress at Start of Second Term
Gambian President Adama Barrow on Wednesday pledged to work to jumpstart the economy and ensure broad-based development gains as he was sworn in for a second five-year term in office. Barrow, 56, came to power in 2017 by unseating his autocratic predecessor Yahya Jammeh at the polls. He comfortably won re-election last month with 53% of the first-round vote. During his first term, he improved relations with many foreign countries that had cooled under Jammeh’s 22-year tenure and worked to restore civil liberties that were repressed during that period. … He reiterated a previous commitment to introduce a new constitution. He has previously said it would introduce presidential term limits but has not said whether that would prevent him from seeking additional terms. Debates about presidential term limits have flared in several of Gambia’s West African neighbours, including Ivory Coast and Guinea, whose presidents in 2020 used constitutional changes as reset buttons on their tenures in order to stay beyond the two-term limit. Reuters

Nnamdi Kanu’s Rights Violated by Nigerian Government, Court Rules
A State High Court in Umuahia, Nigeria’s South-east, has ruled that the Nigerian government violated the fundamental human rights of the detained IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, when the military invaded his home in Abia State in September 2017. The court handed down the ruling, Wednesday, in a fundamental human rights suit filed by Mr Kanu through his lawyer, Aloy Ejimakor. The court said the invasion was a violation of Mr Kanu’s right to life, dignity of his human person, his personal liberty and his privacy. The court, which rejected the government’s objection to the suit, said the government should pay N1billion as damages to the IPOB leader and publicly apologise to him. The court, however, refused to nullify the ongoing trial of Mr Kanu for alleged terrorism, saying it lacked jurisdiction over the matter. … IPOB, which is leading the agitation for an independent republic, Biafra, which they want to be carved out from Nigeria’s South-east and parts of South-south, has been accused of being responsible for the deadly attacks in the South-east and South-south. Premium Times

Facebook Shut in Burkina Faso over Security Concerns
The authorities in Burkina Faso have said they disrupted access to Facebook due to security fears. Government spokesperson Alkassoum Maiga said the authorities did not have to explain themselves on the shutdown first reported on 10 January and which appears to have continued. “I think that if we have a choice between letting insecurity spread and taking measures that allow us to maintain a minimum control over the situation, then the choice seems clear to us that the national interest must take precedence,” Maiga said, according to the popular Radio Omega. The government announced on 11 January that eight soldiers were arrested over a “plan to destabilise the institutions of the republic”, a development that local media said was a coup plot. The internet freedom monitoring group, NetBlocks, reported significant disruptions to internet services on 11 January. BBC

Senegal Local Elections Key Test for President Sall
Senegal will vote for mayors and local representatives on Sunday in the first election since last year’s riots, in a vote seen as a key test for President Macky Sall. The poll is also the first in the West African country since 2019, when the president won a second term. Sall has come under increasing criticism since then, facing accusations of arranging court cases against his rivals and of planning a bid for a third presidential term in 2024. In March last year, Senegal was also rocked by several days of clashes and looting after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was summoned to court to answer charges of rape in a case that he said was politically motivated. At least 12 people were killed nationwide, a toll that shocked a country considered a beacon of stability in a volatile region. Sunday’s poll is viewed as a bellwether for the president’s support, and comes ahead of parliamentary elections expected in July. … The political opposition also fears that Sall will seek to exploit constitutional changes approved in a 2016 to argue that a two-term limit for presidents does not apply, and run again. AFP

Africa Calls for Donated Vaccines with Shelf Life of 3 to 6 Months
Africa’s top public health bodies on Thursday called for donated COVID-19 vaccines to come with a shelf life of three to six months so countries could plan their rollouts and avoid a situation where doses expire. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said 2.8 million doses of vaccine had expired on the continent, roughly 0.5% of the 572 million doses delivered to date. He said 10.4% of Africans were fully vaccinated. “In terms of the 0.5%, let me be very clear, any dose of vaccine that expired pains me because that is a life that can be potentially saved,” Nkengasong told a news briefing. In a separate briefing, the World Health Organisation Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, echoed Nkengasong’s call. “Many countries indicate that they would like vaccines to be donated with at least three months of shelf life, if not more,” Moeti said. Nkengasong said the expired doses were mostly among those donated by individual countries or via the global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX, and that they had arrived with “very short notice”. He said some countries were now refusing to accept vaccines when they saw that the shelf life was only one or two months. Reuters

US Billionaire Opens COVID, Cancer Vaccine Plant in South Africa
South African-born U.S. billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa have cut the ribbon Wednesday at a new vaccine manufacturing plant. It is hoped the facility will soon start making Africa’s first locally produced COVID-19 vaccines, as well as cancer vaccines and other pharmaceuticals. A crowd of ceremony participants cheered as Dr. Soon-Shiong and President Ramaphosa took the stage at the NantSA vaccine manufacturing campus at a business park in Cape Town. Soon-Shiong, 69, left South Africa after doing his internship to become a medical doctor. Today, he is number 89 on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans with an estimated fortune of $7.5 billion. A transplant surgeon by profession, he became known for inventing the cancer treatment drug Abraxane. He says the COVID-19 vaccine he has developed is second generation and will stop the transmission of the virus. However, he emphasized the vaccines currently available are effective and necessary. VOA

Poaching Boss Jailed for 30 Years in Mozambique
A court in Mozambique has sentenced the leader of a poaching gang to 30 years in prison. Judges in Maputo Province found Admiro Chauque guilty of illegal possession of weapons, and numerous poaching offences in southern Mozambique, as well as in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. He was arrested trying to poach rhinos in May last year. There is a strong demand for rhino horn in China and Vietnam. The court also gave a nine-year sentence to a man who was caught laying traps to catch animals in Maputo National Park. In recent years the judiciary in Mozambique has imposed heavy penalties on poachers and people transporting the protected animals. BBC

Facebook’s Second Life: The Unstoppable Rise of the Tech Company in Africa
Across Africa, Facebook is the internet. Businesses and consumers depend heavily on it because access to the app and site are free on many African telecoms networks, meaning you don’t need any phone credit to use it. In 2015, Facebook launched Free Basics, an internet service that gives users credit-free access to the platform. Designed to work on low-cost mobile phones, which make up the vast majority of devices on the continent, it offers a limited format, with no audio, photo and video content. Over the past five years, Free Basics has been rolled out in 32 African countries. Facebook’s ambition does not end there. Where there are no telecoms providers to partner with, or where infrastructure is poor, the company has been developing satellites that can beam internet access to remote areas. … Internet access in Africa is overwhelmingly via mobile phones; only about 8% of African households have a computer, whereas phone ownership hovers at around 50%. Half of mobiles are online, but not via billed plans. The majority of data users are pay as you go, and sometimes own multiple sims to switch between cost-effective plans. When the data they have purchased runs out, Facebook is still there. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones