Africa Media Review for January 22, 2021

CAR Announces State of Emergency after Armed Attacks
The Central African Republic (CAR) has announced a 15-day state of emergency after armed groups tried to block the capital, Bangui, in a bid to topple newly re-elected President Faustin Archange Touadera. Rebels controlling about two-thirds of the perennially volatile nation launched an offensive a week before presidential elections on December 27, trying to blockade Bangui and carrying out several attacks on key national highways. “The state of emergency has been proclaimed across the national territory for 15 days, starting from midnight (2300 GMT),” presidential spokesman Albert Yaloke Mokpeme said over national radio on Thursday. He told the AFP news agency the state of emergency would also allow authorities “to make arrests without going through national prosecutors.” … On January 13, the rebels launched two simultaneous attacks on Bangui but were rebuffed by MINUSCA, the UN mission in the CAR. Al Jazeera

UN: More Peacekeepers Needed in Central African Republic
The United Nations’ top diplomat in the Central African Republic said Thursday that significantly more peacekeepers are needed to quell election-related violence that has caused nearly 60,000 people to flee the country. “The current capacity of the [U.N.] mission will be tested even more at a time when, more than ever, it must protect civilians and ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance, which is severely impacted by acts of violence by the CPC,” Mankeur Ndiaye, head of the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, told the U.N. Security Council. … “To this end, we need a strategy to manage the mandate, a substantial increase of uniformed components of the mission — namely the troops, the police and the prison service — must be strengthened in order to give us greater mobility,” Ndiaye said. Ndiaye said Thursday that the deployment will need to be “prolonged for several months” and urged sending “as many people as possible” from the U.N. mission in South Sudan. That mission has more than 15,000 uniformed personnel, but they are stretched thin. VOA

Old Grudges and Empty Coffers: South Sudan’s Precarious Peace Process
On the streets of South Sudan’s capital city, billboards honour the country’s politicians for ending five years of conflict that cost almost 400,000 lives and displaced millions. “Peacemakers” and “Children of God” declares one poster, quoting the Bible alongside a photo of the president. But nearly a year after President Salva Kiir formed a unity government with opposition leader Riek Machar – now the vice-president – key parts of the agreement have not been implemented amid entrenched distrust between the two men, funding shortages, and renewed fighting that cost thousands of lives in 2020. … Many South Sudanese who spoke to TNH on a visit to the country in December questioned the political will for peace, while analysts fear disenchantment within Machar’s camp over the slow progress could soon fuel new outbreaks of violence. “As various parts of the peace deal stall, the risk is rising that some opposition forces could return to conflict or try to sue for peace on their own terms,” said Alan Boswell, a South Sudan analyst with the International Crisis Group. The New Humanitarian

Uganda’s Opposition Supporters Nervously Await Next Move
Across opposition strongholds in Uganda’s capital, the reaction to President Yoweri Museveni’s contested re-election has been muted, with his rival’s supporters too fearful — or dispirited — to take to the streets. With their leader under house arrest, and soldiers still out in force, backers of presidential runner-up Bobi Wine have been waiting and watching in nervous limbo since the opposition decried the January 14 poll as a “sham.” “Everyone here is scared,” said Eva Nabadda, a 32-year-old restaurant owner in Katwe, a slum in Kampala that like the rest of the city, voted overwhelmingly for Wine and his National Unity Platform (NUP). “If the police identify you as a Bobi Wine supporter, they’ll arrest you. We fear that if we come out to protest, all eyes are on us,” she said. … [Wine’s] home remains surrounded by security forces, and he has not been allowed to leave since voting day. Visitors — including the US ambassador to Uganda — have been turned away.

U.N. Sets Dates for Libyan Transitional Government Selection
The United Nations Libya mission said on Thursday that nominations for leadership of a new unified transitional government must be made within a week and voting on candidates would take place in early February. Libya has been divided since 2014 between rival administrations in the capital Tripoli, in the west, and in the country’s east. Maneuvering over the new government has raised fears that powerful figures who stand to lose influence could attempt to sabotage the process. The UN in November gathered 75 Libyan participants in a political dialogue in Tunis aimed at setting a roadmap to national elections that they set for late December. After weeks of wrangling, the dialogue members this week agreed on rules for selecting a new three-member presidential council and a prime minister to oversee the run-up to the election. The UN said on Thursday that dialogue members would vote on candidates for the new government’s leadership positions in Switzerland from Feb. 1-5. Reuters

Five Soldiers Killed in Niger Anti-Terror Operation
Five Nigerien soldiers have been killed and four were reported missing in an operation against jihadists on the country’s southeastern frontier with Nigeria, the defence ministry said Thursday. “Around 20 terrorists” were also killed in the fighting on Tuesday, the ministry said in a statement read on television. It gave no details of the operation against jihadists beyond the fact that it was backed by Niger’s “partners” and deployed both air and ground forces. Niamey is part of a France-backed alliance of countries in the Sahel region battling jihadists, including some belonging to a group aligned with the so-called Islamic State known as ISWAP — themselves an offshoot of Boko Haram. On Monday, four Nigerien soldiers were killed with an improvised explosive device, one day after another attack on a military camp. AFP

French Troops Kill over 20 Jihadists in Burkina Faso
More than 20 jihadists have been killed by French troops this month in Burkina Faso near the border with troubled Mali, the French military said Thursday. One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso is struggling with a ruthless insurgency by armed Islamists who swept in from neighboring Mali in 2015. Almost 1,100 people have died and more than a million people have fled their homes. French Tigre helicopters on Saturday “neutralized” a “suspicious convoy of 30 motorcycles” on Burkinabe territory near the Mali town of Boulikessi in which some 10 jihadists were killed, said Colonel Frederic Barbry, spokesman for the French defense staff. The same day, a French drone struck a four-wheel drive vehicle heading for Mali, he said. The Defense Post with AFP

Burkina Faso’s National Reconciliation No Easy Path
Burkina Faso’s reelected President Roch Kabore has appointed a minister for national reconciliation as part of a vow to end the country’s ethnic and political conflicts that are fueling terrorism.  However, resolving deep-rooted tensions over land and power between the ruling ethnic Mossi and the ethnic Fulani, who are often labeled as terrorists, will not be easy.  The Fulani are semi-nomadic herders living across Africa’s Sahel region — including Burkina Faso’s north, where Islamist terrorists gained a foothold in the last decade. … The U.S. State Department last year issued a report implicating the government in abuses, including extrajudicial killings and violence against ethnic minorities. Due to recruiting among the disgruntled, rights groups say the Fulani are often labeled as terrorists and subject to abuse or even execution. … Rights groups say the discrimination helps terrorists recruit more fighters, even though the Fulani are suffering the brunt of Islamist attacks.  Burkina Faso’s President Roch Kabore, at his December inauguration for a second term, vowed to focus on national reconciliation. VOA

In Somalia, Mothers Fear Sons Were Sent to Ethiopia Conflict
Pressure is growing on Somalia’s government amid allegations that Somali soldiers have been sent to fight in neighboring Ethiopia’s deadly Tigray conflict. Mothers have held rare protests in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere, demanding to know the fate of their children who originally were sent to Eritrea for military training. They fear their children have been deployed to the Tigray region, where Ethiopian forces have been fighting Tigray ones since November in a conflict that threatens to destabilize the Horn of Africa. … Somalia President Abdullahi Mohamed Abdullahi has been asked by the head of the country’s parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Abdulqadir Ossoble Ali, to investigate allegations of participation in the Tigray conflict. “We have the oversight right to check what our government is doing,” Ali wrote in the letter distributed to media outlets. And the former deputy director for Somalia’s intelligence agency, Ismael Dahir Osman, has said “it is a question worth asking why these soldiers are not yet back home after more than a year when their training would have concluded long ago.” AP

UN Warns of ‘Serious’ Rape Charges in Ethiopia’s Tigray
The U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict says “serious allegations of sexual violence” have emerged in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, while women and girls face shortages of rape kits and HIV drugs amid restrictions on humanitarian access. “There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Pramila Patten said in a statement released late Thursday. “Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities, while medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections.” … A spokeswoman for Patten’s office wouldn’t say which “military elements” were involved. The fighters in Tigray include those from the neighboring Amhara region and other parts of Ethiopia as well as soldiers from neighboring Eritrea. AP

Darfur, Sudan: More Information on the El Geneina Attacks
It is estimated that roughly 60,000 people are now displaced within the city El Geneina itself following the escalation of violence in, and around, West Darfur’s state capital. The total number of people that have fled their homes is thought to be more than 90,000. Even though the curfew was loosened after the apparent restoration of calm in the city, there are still reports of attacks. These included the attempted assassination of the West Darfur wali (governor). Activists and politicians have expressed anger over the slow government response. … South Darfur also witnessed deadly tribal fighting this week, which cost the lives of at least 70 people from both sides of the conflict. Earlier, Fallata leaders reported that the death toll of the attack launched by Rizeigat gunmen on El Tawil village in South Darfur on Monday has risen to at least 56 people. The governor of Central Darfur has warned of an increase in violence now that the UNAMID mission is withdrawing from the region. Protests against insecurity and violence, and against the UNAMID exit, have taken place across Darfur. Radio Dabanga

South African Cabinet Minister Dies of COVID-19 Amid Surge
Jackson Mthembu, a central figure in communicating the South African government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, died of complications from the coronavirus, the president announced Thursday. He was 62. Mthembu is the first member of South Africa’s cabinet to succumb to COVID-19 after he tested positive on January 11. “Minister Mthembu was an exemplary leader, an activist and life-long champion of freedom and democracy,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said. “He was a much-loved and greatly respected colleague and comrade, whose passing leaves our nation at a loss.”Mthembu’s death comes as South Africa battles a second wave of the COVID-19 that is driven by a new variant of the virus that is about 50% more infectious, according to health experts. Mthembu was appointed the spokesman for South Africa’s governing African National Congress party in 2007 and became a member of parliament a few years later. He was the Minister in the Presidency, responsible for communicating cabinet decisions and since the outbreak of COVID-19 has been coordinating the government’s key messages on the virus. AP

As Zimbabwe’s COVID Cases Surge, Gravediggers Struggle to Cope
Since New Year’s Day, Thomas Rasauka,* a gravedigger in Zimbabwe’s capital, has had very little rest. “We are digging 10 to 12 graves daily now,” he said, describing the past few weeks as one of the most tiresome and busiest periods in all his 12 years in the profession. It is mid-morning on Monday and Rasauka and seven of his colleagues at Warren Hills Cemetery, one of the oldest graveyards west of Harare, dig the semi-dry ground, forcefully tossing the loose red sand and heaping it on the side. It is the fifth grave the team has dug since they started work. Rasauka reckons it will be a busy day ahead for him and his colleagues. “People are dying in numbers because of COVID-19,” he told Al Jazeera. “Three out of five burials here are COVID-19.” Zimbabwe has since late December been experiencing a significant surge in new coronavirus infections and deaths. … Norman Marara, secretary of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, said the released COVID-19 figures were much lower than the actual cases. Al Jazeera

Nigeria Approves Release of $16.9 Million to Set up Oxygen Plants Amid COVID-19 Surge
Nigeria’s president has approved the release of 6.45 billion naira ($16.94 million) to set up oxygen production plants in 38 sites to help treat COVID-19 patients as authorities contend with a sharp rise in cases, the government said on Thursday. Africa’s most-populous country, where officials recorded low coronavirus numbers through much of last year, is in the grip of a second wave of infections. The presidency said the release of funds to address the provision of oxygen was announced at a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) advisory body. … The release of funds for the production of oxygen was “necessitated by the increased number of patients who need oxygen due to the surge in Covid-19 infections in the country,” the statement said. … Earlier this week, the state government in Lagos, the epicentre of Nigeria’s outbreak, said demand for oxygen at one of its main hospitals had increased fivefold in recent weeks to 350 6-litre cylinders a day. It said that was expected to more than double to 750 by the end of January. Reuters

Another Storm, Growing Stronger, Set to Hit Central Mozambique
A powerful storm approaching Mozambique is expected to intensify into a tropical cyclone on Friday, the United Nations’ humanitarian agency OCHA said, bringing heavy winds and rains to a region devastated by Cyclone Idai nearly two years ago. Tropical storm Eloise is currently over the Mozambique channel and is expected to slam into the country’s central region on Saturday, hitting the port city of Beira and surrounding areas, which bore the brunt of Idai in March 2019. “There are growing concerns regarding the potential for widespread floods, with all river basins in Sofala and Inhambane provinces already above alert levels and more rains to follow in the coming days,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, referring to two central provinces in the storm’s path. Mozambique’s National Meteorological Institute (INAM) said the storm had the potential to develop into a category three cyclone, forecasting maximum wind speeds of up to 140 km/h and the chance of as much as 200 millimetres of rain in 24 hours. Reuters