Africa Media Review for January 21, 2021

Africa’s Evolving Cyber Threats
In June 2020, the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA) thwarted a cyberattack from an Egypt-based actor known as the Cyber_Horus Group. According to INSA, the purpose of the attack was to create significant “economic, psychological, and political pressure on Ethiopia” over the filling of the Nile River’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The GERD was at the time and continues to be a significant source of tension between Ethiopia and Egypt. … These attacks illustrate the rising significance of cyber threats to African national security. A broad range of actors participate in these activities, from lone-wolf hackers to nation-states, who have varying capabilities and intentions. Yet, African governments and security sector actors have only just begun to identify and respond to the ways in which digital technology is transforming African security. Four major categories of security activity merit attention: espionage, critical infrastructure sabotage, organized crime, and the shifting contours of the African battlefield. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Armed Men Try to Storm Governor’s House in Sudan’s Darfur
Armed men opened fire overnight, trying to storm the residence of a provincial governor in Sudan’s restive Darfur region but were repelled by guards, officials said Wednesday. There were no injuries or damage in the attempted attack on West Darfur Gov. Mohammed Abdalla al-Douma’s residence in the provincial capital of Genena, but it underscored the heightened tensions in the restive region where a bout of tribal violence has killed around 230 people since last week. … A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said the attackers opened fire on the heavily fortified residence, prompting the guards to return fire. The exchange lasted for over an hour. … The fighting between members of the Arab Rizeigat tribe and the non-Arab Massalit tribe grew out of a fistfight Friday in a Genena camp for displaced people. Some 160 people on both sides, including women and children, have been killed. … The fighting also led to the displacement of at least 90,000 people, who have taken shelter in schools and government buildings and nearby villages, according to the United Nations. AP

Violence in Sudan’s Darfur Region Dims Hopes of a Long-Sought Peace
Hundreds of people have been killed or injured in violence that enveloped Sudan’s Darfur region in recent days, dampening hopes for long-lasting peace in an area that has been plagued by fighting and instability for decades. The violence came just weeks after peacekeepers with the United Nations and the African Union started a phased withdrawal after 13 years in the region. … Last August, [Sudan’s] transitional government signed a milestone peace agreement with all but a few of the rebel groups. In the wake of that deal, the United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur said in December that it would end its mission in the region, hand over operations to the Sudanese government and withdraw all of its uniformed and civilian personnel by June. The announced withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces drew opposition from some leaders in the region and civil society organizations at the time. The African Union and some members of the U.N. Security Council, including France and Britain, expressed concern that the troop departure might create a security void. The New York Times

Uganda: Bobi Wine Files Arbitrary Detention Complaint at UN
Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine, who is under de facto house arrest by the military, has filed an arbitrary detention complaint to the United Nations. “Nigerian human rights lawyer Femi Falana has filed this complaint on my behalf to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Arrest. We are challenging my continued illegal confinement by the Ugandan police and the military,” he tweeted on Wednesday. Bobi Wine’s residence in Kampala has been surrounded by the army since Friday, a day after Uganda conducted presidential elections in which Bobi Wine competed against President Yoweri Museveni. … The opposition leader, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, said he will legally contest the result of the presidential election, alleging “widespread fraud” during the January 14 polls… The internet was shut down across the country shortly before the start of voting. It has since returned, though social media remains unavailable. On Thursday, Human Rights Watch said the lead up to elections were characterized by widespread violence and human rights abuses. Al Jazeera

US Imposes Visa Restrictions on Tanzanian Officials over Vote
The US government has imposed visa restrictions on Tanzanian officials for “undermining” a free and fair election. The State Department said it was banning an unspecified number of Tanzania government officials for what it called was subversion of a democratic process in their country. “The actions of these officials subverted the electoral process, continuing the downward trajectory of the country’s democracy,” the Department said on Tuesday. “Opposition candidates were routinely disqualified, harassed, and arrested. Significant and widespread voting irregularities, internet disruptions, intimidation of journalists, and violence by security forces made this election neither free nor fair.” … “The United States will continue to closely follow developments in Tanzania and will not hesitate to take additional actions against individuals complicit in undermining democracy and violating human rights.” Nation

Outreach by Tunisian Leaders Fails to Quell Youth Unrest
Tunisian youth clashed with police overnight, maintaining their protests and riots over economic difficulties despite efforts by the president and the prime minister to calm tensions. “Your voice is heard, and your anger is legitimate, and it is my role and the role of the government to work to realize your demands and to make the dream of Tunisia to become true,” Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi appealed to the protesters on national television Tuesday night. Hours later, dozens of people throwing projectiles and setting barricades on fire faced off with police firing tear gas in the Tunis suburb of Ariana. Unrest was reported in other cities as well, the fifth straight night of protests that prompted Tunisia to deploy the army to try to keep order. … A third of the North African nation’s young people are unemployed. This and Tunisia’s prolonged economic crisis — aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic — have fueled the anger. Protests have notably rocked impoverished towns in the interior of the country but also reached bigger cities on the coast. AP

Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Dies of COVID-19 Amid Resurgence
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo, who gained prominence in 2017 as the military general who announced the coup against then-president Robert Mugabe on television, has died from COVID-19, the government announced Wednesday. He was 61. Moyo, previously little known to the public, became the face of the coup when he announced that the military had placed Mugabe under house arrest as the military’s armored vehicles rolled into the capital, Harare. The coup ended Mugabe’s 37-year rule in Zimbabwe and he later died in Sept. 2019. Moyo was appointed foreign affairs minister after President Emerson Mnangagwa took power with military backing. … Zimbabwe is experiencing a resurgence of the disease, with record numbers of daily confirmed cases and deaths. Mnangagwa is on Thursday set to bury another Cabinet minister, Ellen Gwaradzimba, who died from COVID-19 last week. AP

Africa’s COVID-19 Death Rate Now Higher Than Global Rate
Africa’s coronavirus case fatality rate stands at 2.5%, higher than the global level of 2.2%, a trend that is alarming experts, the head of the continent’s disease control body said on Thursday. Earlier in the pandemic, Africa’s death rate had been below the global average, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) head John Nkengasong told reporters. “The case fatality rate is beginning to be very worrying and concerning for all of us,” he said. The number of African nations with a death rate higher than the current global average is growing, he added. There are 21 countries on the continent with a death rate of above 3%, including Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan. Over the past week, cases decreased by nearly 7% compared to the previous week while deaths increased 10%, according to Africa CDC data. Africa has recorded 3.3 million coronavirus infections and 81,000 deaths as of Thursday, it says. Reuters

COVID-19 Shots to Cost $3 to $10 under African Union Vaccine Plan
African countries will pay between $3 and $10 per vaccine dose to access 270 million COVID-19 shots secured this month by the African Union (AU), according to a draft briefing on the plan prepared by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and provided to Reuters. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who serves as AU chair, said last week arrangements had been made with the bank to support member states who want access to vaccines. Countries can pay back the loans in instalments over five to seven years, the document showed. … John Nkengasong, who heads the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the prices were comparable to those available through COVAX.“ … “For now, what is critical is access to the market, secure quantities and start vaccinating.” … “We need a way to secure the economy by vaccinating people,” said Africa CDC chief Nkengasong. “Then we will think about the rest.” Reuters

Tshisekedi Meets with Rwandan Delegation on Bilateral Cooperation
President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) received a Rwandan delegation at State House on Tuesday. They were Vincent Biruta, Joseph Nzabamwita, Donald Kaberuka and Vincent Karega, who are Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Secretary General of Intelligence Services, Senior Official to the African Union and Rwandan Ambassador posted to Kinshasa, respectively. … Vincent Biruta simply indicated that this message is linked to bilateral cooperation and to sub-regional and continental issues. A few weeks before the inauguration of the Congolese presidency of the African Union, the Rwandan emissaries, according to the same source, indicated that it is good that the “neighbors exchange.” … The visit on January 19 comes a month after the publication of the report of the UN group of experts on the DRC, which indicated the presence of the Rwandan Defense Force in the DRC. … But all these allegations had been rejected by both the Congolese and Rwandan authorities. Nation

‘Complex’ Emergency Unfolding in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado, Warn UN Agencies
UN agencies voiced deep concern on Wednesday over the worsening humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, where attacks by armed groups have forced more than 565,000 to flee their homes. According to the agencies, growing insecurity and poor infrastructure are making it increasingly difficulty to reach families “completely reliant” on humanitarian assistance, amid fears that imminent rains and threat of cyclones could further compound the challenges. “Coupled with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis has become even more complex,” regional heads of UN agencies in east and southern Africa said in a joint statement. “The crisis is a complex security, human rights, humanitarian and development emergency, underscoring the imperative of continuing to provide life-saving assistance while collectively supporting Government-led long-term resilience building,” the statement added. UN News

Libyans Agree to Hold Constitutional Referendum: Egypt
Libyan envoys at UN-backed talks in Egypt agreed Wednesday to hold a constitutional referendum before planned elections in the war-torn country later this year, Egypt’s foreign ministry said. Egypt “welcomes the agreement reached today between the Libyan parties in Hurghada in the framework of the constitutional process… and appreciates the efforts that led to the agreement to hold a referendum on the draft constitution in view of the Libyan elections scheduled for December 24, 2021,” the ministry said in a statement. New talks will be held in Egypt next month with a view to settling the “road map for the referendum and elections,” it added. … The meeting was held to “discuss the constitutional arrangements necessary for the holding of elections on December 24,” according to the UN. Libyans at UN-led talks in Tunisia in November agreed on the date for the elections. AFP

UN Calls for Resumption of Mediterranean Rescues, after 43 Die in Libya Shipwreck
Following another deadly shipwreck off the coast of Libya that claimed 43 lives on Monday, the UN migration and refugee agencies have called for countries to re-activate search and rescue operations. In a joint statement released on Wednesday by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the two agencies expressed their sadness at the tragic event, the first of 2021 in the Central Mediterranean. The boat reportedly capsized due to bad sea conditions when its engine stopped, just a few hours after embarking from the Libyan city of Zawra early on Tuesday morning. The 10 survivors, mainly from Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, and The Gambia, reported that those who perished were all men of West African origin. … IOM and UNHCR reiterated their call on the international community for an urgent and measurable shift in the approach to the situation in the Mediterranean. UN News

Boats Emerge from Sahara Sand to Transport Migrants to Spain
Beneath a star-packed sky in the Sahara, smugglers and handymen unearth a boat buried in the sand, a made-to-order vessel for carrying migrants from the North African coast to Spain’s Canary Islands. With seasoned skill, the men hoist the blue-bottomed wooden boat atop a four-wheel drive vehicle that will take it from this inland hideaway to the Western Sahara shore. From there, the boat is meant to take 20 to 30 migrants into the Atlantic Ocean and across what the European Union’s border agency calls “the most dangerous migratory route in the world.” The boat handover is a crucial but little-seen piece of the migrant smuggling chain in disputed Western Sahara — a business that thrived last year, as the coronavirus pandemic plunged many Africans into poverty and, with other routes choked off, migration to the Canary Islands jumped eight-fold to the highest rates ever recorded. Encouraged by aid from Spain and the EU, the Moroccan authorities who control Western Sahara — where some residents have long sought independence — are increasingly cracking down and thwarted a recent boat transfer witnessed by The Associated Press. AP

Gone: The Lost Victims of Nigeria’s ‘Most Brutal’ Police Station
Behind a metal gate on the southern flank of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, stands a boxy hay-coloured building set in the dense clay earth of Awkuzu town. For more than 10 years, it has been at the centre of incredulous tales of torture and extrajudicial killings in this part of southeastern Nigeria’s Anambra State – tales that have spread beyond the region and across the country. Throughout the building’s dark history, blood stained its floors and guttural screams from those detained there rang out deep into the night. Today, a gloomy aura hovers over the building as cars and pedestrians pass by. The building originally belonged to the local chapter of a national political party set up during one of Nigeria’s military regimes in the early 1990s, but was later converted to the local headquarters of the police force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Although SARS was disbanded on October 11, 2020, after nationwide protests against it, the building is still used by the Nigerian Police Force. Al Jazeera

Mali Security Forces Disperse Rally against French Army
Malian security forces fired tear gas at dozens of demonstrators in the capital Bamako on Wednesday, AFP journalists said, during an unauthorized rally against France’s military role in the country. The protesters, who were in a central square in the West African city, fled before the gas canisters fired by a large number of police and gendarmes. But just as security forces were dispersing the crowd, motorbike convoys of protesters were making their way towards the square from different parts of the city, according to AFP journalists. Bamako’s city hall had earlier banned the protest against the French military, citing COVID-19 restrictions. … France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, first intervened in the country in 2013 to help drive back jihadist forces advancing on Bamako. It now has 5,100 troops deployed across Africa’s arid Sahel region, as part of its anti-jihadist force Barkhane. … In France on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced an “adjustment” to French forces in the Sahel. The Defense Post with AFP

Report Aims at ‘Reconciling’ France and Algeria, Its Former Colony
France will establish a “memories and truth” commission to review the country’s colonial history in Algeria, following a key recommendation in a new, much-anticipated report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron and released on Wednesday. The report also presented a series of other proposals to address longstanding grievances. … The report said its purpose was to achieve a “reconciliation of memories between France and Algeria,” two countries divided not by just the Mediterranean Sea but also by deep animosity stemming from years of colonization and an independence war that left hundreds of thousands dead. … The report was written by the French historian Benjamin Stora, who will now head the commission. He said the report focused on a series of concrete actions to “lift the lid” on a range of issues left behind by France’s colonial past and the Algerian War. … “We’re a country with a colonial past and traumas it still hasn’t resolved, with facts that underpin our collective psyche,” Mr. Macron said in a speech in October. “The Algerian War is part of this.” The New York Times

FAO Launches $17m Project to Enhance Food Security in Somalia
The Food Agriculture Organization in collaboration with the European Union on Wednesday launched a three-year project in Somalia to enhance food security by increasing job opportunities in the fisheries and livestock sectors. Livestock and fishing are leading income earners in Somalia but both have been affected by conflict, climate change, piracy and illegal fishing. The Resilient Fisheries and Livestock Value Chain for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Somalia (RAAISE) project is meant to create new jobs and rehabilitate primary infrastructure within the fisheries and livestock sectors. The $17.8 million project funded by the EU will be implemented by FAO, which will provide agricultural inputs and support technical training of pastoralists, fisherfolk, and honey producers. The EastAfrican

South Africa: Soup for the Sick: A Bowl of Warmth in a Time of Need
As the second wave of Covid-19 infections grips South Africa, a network of women’s organisations have come to the aid of thousands of people battling the virus by providing them with nutritious, healthy soup to sustain them in their fight. Driven to action by the growing number of people unable to cook for themselves or their families, members of the Soup for the Sick network are cooking and delivering soups and other meals around the country. The network, co-ordinated by the South African National Muslim Women’s Forum and Human Aid, began its work in Durban and Johannesburg, and has now spread to many other towns around the country. Teams of volunteers cook the soup in their homes and others co-ordinate and deliver the meals ordered the day before. The intervention is not limited to homemade soups — donations of oxygen, masks, herbal supplements and food parcels are distributed to people, according to their needs. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones