Africa Media Review for January 26, 2021

AU Calls for Dialogue to Ease Kenya, Somalia Border Tension

The African Union (AU) on Tuesday raised concern with the rising tensions at the common border between Kenya and Somalia, which saw sporadic violence in Bula-Hawo. It called for dialogue to deescalate tension. The fighting arose between Somalia National Forces and regional Jubbaland fighters, which Somalia claims have been trained in Kenya. At least nine people, including civilians, were killed on the Somali side where the battle occurred on Monday morning. The AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat called on both sides to deescalate tensions and use multilateral channels to voice their complaints. “I’m following the tensions on the Kenya-Somalia border with concern, and urge the two neighbours to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue in conformity with the Igad-led process. “Peace on the Kenya-Somalia border is vital to regional stability.” The EastAfrican

Central African Republic Says Dozens of Rebels Killed in Counter-Offensive

Central African Republic troops killed 44 rebel fighters participating in a push to encircle the capital Bangui and overturn newly-reelected President Faustin Archange Touadera, the government said Monday. Together with “allied forces,” the CAR army launched an offensive in the village of Boyali, around 90 kilometres (56 miles) from the capital, with no casualties on the government side and “44 dead including several mercenaries from Chad, Sudan and the Fulani” ethnic group, the government posted on Facebook. When the government says “allies,” it is usually referring to Rwandan troops and Russian paramilitaries which have been sent to the conflict-plagued country to reinforce federal troops. “Government forces are back on the offensive,” government spokesman Ange-Maxime Kazagui told AFP. … The UN has warned of the rebels trying to “strangle” the capital by cutting off the three major roads leading there. AFP

Foreign Fighters Were Meant to Leave Libya This Week. A Huge Trench Being Dug by Russian-Backed Mercenaries Indicates They Plan to Stay

Construction on an enormous trench across Libya, dug by Russian-backed mercenaries Wagner, is raising fears that foreign fighters will not withdraw from the country by Saturday, as a UN-brokered peace deal insists. US officials are also concerned over the long-term goals of the Kremlin ally in the war-torn state. One intelligence official notes that the trench is a sign that Wagner, which, the official said, has its largest global presence in Libya, is “settling in for the long haul.” The trench, which extends dozens of kilometers south from the populated coastal areas around Sirte towards the Wagner-controlled stronghold of al-Jufra, can be seen on satellite imagery and is bolstered by a series of elaborate fortifications. … The trench, the US intelligence official said, is another reason “we see no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement. This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and ceasefire. It will be a really difficult year ahead.” CNN

Clashes Break Out in Tunisia after Death of Protester

Clashes in Tunisia between groups of young people and police broke out Monday evening, following the death of a local man in his 20s who participated in last week’s protests. He is reportedly the first fatality of the demonstrations that swept the North African nation. Angry residents fired projectiles at police and attempted to enter a security post in Sbeitla in the Kasserine region, after blocking the town’s main road by setting tires on fire, according to state news agency TAP. Law enforcement responded with tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters, and a chase took place through city streets. TAP said that the army was deployed to calm unrest there and protect public buildings. … The death would represent the first fatality recorded since the outbreak of social unrest that rocked the country for a week and which resulted in around 1,200 arrests. More than 30% of those were minors protesting against unemployment and precarious living conditions in the country’s poorest regions. AP

#Jan25 Hashtag Resurfaces 10 Years after Egypt’s Revolution

Ten years and a lifetime ago, as Egypt was preparing to mark the annual January 25 National Police Day, a diverse collection of netizens – including activists, bloggers, citizen journalists and IT professionals – decided to turn the event into a National Day of Anger. National Police Day, with its official commemorations and jingoistic displays, has long been a subject of derision and dark humour in a country plagued by brutal policing. … The 2011 National Police Day holiday looked set to be different. Weeks earlier, protesters in Tunisia had managed to oust strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from power. … On January 15, 2011, Alya El Hosseiny, a Cairo-based, self-described “geek”, put out a one-line protest invitation on Twitter. “Over 16,000 of us are taking to the streets on #jan25! Join us,” she tweeted. … The #Jan25 call soon spread like wildfire in cyberspace, drawing protesters on Cairo’s Tahrir Square. France24

A Decade On, Silence Fills Egypt’s Field of Broken Dreams

… But the transformation of Tahrir Square, he said, started long before Egypt’s first case of Covid-19. He pointed to the area where, a decade ago this month, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians massed to oust their autocratic ruler, Hosni Mubarak, in a howl of revolt, the zenith of a surge of uprisings across the region that became known as the Arab Spring. Mr. Taha, then in his 20s, had been among them. “Glorious,” he recalled. Now he hardly recognized the place. The grassy circle where euphoric revolutionaries once partied has been smothered in concrete. In its place rose a grandiose monument — the centerpiece of a $6 million renovation intended to spruce up shabby Tahrir in the style of the stately plazas of Europe. … The effect was of a fancier yet more impersonal Tahrir, both militaristic and pharaonic — exactly what President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who ordered the changes, surely wanted. Tahrir Square … has long occupied a special place in Egypt’s culture and history. Since it was carved from a patch of swampy land by the Nile more than 150 years ago, the sprawling plaza has been both a totem and a threat for Egypt’s rulers. The New York Times

Special Report: Sudan after the Revolution

Two years on, euphoria at the downfall of a dictatorship has faded among Sudan’s citizens. The coalition of forces that helped topple Omar al-Bashir has fractured as economic hardship bites and as the treacherous nature of the transition reveals itself… “Many people who had genuine hope for positive change from this government are probably pretty disappointed by now,” says Ms Alneel, speaking 20 months after the events that brought down the dictator. … “For the military to accept civilian power is going to take time,” says Mo Ibrahim, a prominent Sudanese-British businessman whose foundation promotes good governance in Africa. “But we will not have democracy unless we have civilian control over the military.” FT

Morocco Prepares to Launch COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

Morocco’s health ministry has started distributing COVID-19 vaccines across the country as it prepares to become the first African state to roll out a mass immunisation programme this week. Appointments have been made for health workers and citizens are registering online to receive the vaccine in 3,000 locations, said Ben Azouz Mohammed, head of the ministry’s vaccination programme. Morocco on Friday received 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by India’s Serum Institute and it expects to get 500,000 doses of vaccine from China’s Sinopharm on Wednesday. The virus has hit Morocco hard, shrinking the economy by 7.2% last year according to the International Monetary Fund, with unemployment surging to almost 15% as nearly three quarters of a million jobs were lost. … Morocco has chosen to focus on the conventional vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Sinopharm which do not require ultra-cold storage but do need two doses. Reuters

Malawi Recruits Healthcare Workers to Combat Surge in COVID-19

Malawi says it is recruiting hundreds of healthcare workers to address a shortage as the country deals with a surge in COVID-19 cases. Healthcare workers welcome the move but say the government needs to do more than just hire more nurses. Government statistics show that about 900 Malawian health workers are currently in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19. Ten of them have died. Dr. Charles Mwansambo is secretary for the Ministry of Health. Speaking during a televised presidential address on Sunday evening, he said to address the shortage, the government is attempting to recruit 1,380 new healthcare workers from various schools this week. … “In the past seven days, we have confirmed a total of 6,675 new infections, which is an average of 953 confirmed infections per day. This means that the average daily number of new infections from this past week is double what it was the previous week,” he said. Chakwera also said in the past seven days, the daily average number of COVID-19 deaths was more than double what it was the previous week. VOA

Ugandan Security Forces Withdraw from Bobi Wine’s House
Security forces in Uganda have withdrawn from around the home of presidential challenger Bobi Wine, complying with a ruling by a judge on Monday that rebuked authorities for holding the candidate under house arrest for 11 days. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, has been unable to leave his home since 14 January, when Ugandans voted in an election in which the 38-year-old reggae star turned politician was the main challenger to 76-year-old Yoweri Museveni. … Wine met newly elected members of parliaments from his National Unity Platform (NUP) party outside his home. “The people of Uganda are relying on us, they voted us and we must not disappoint them. While you take up these offices you need to remember that you are servants to the people,” he told the politicians. … Last week, security forces cordoned off the officers of the NUP in the capital. The move was aimed at complicating its efforts to collect evidence of poll irregularities. The Guardian

Regime Hardliner Takes Helm of Burundi Ruling Party

Burundi’s ruling party has named hardliner Reverien Ndikuriyo as its new leader, several sources told AFP on Monday, a promotion that follows Evariste Ndayishimiye’s rise to the presidency last year. Ndikuriyo was elected secretary general of the CNDD-FDD party at an extraordinary congress in the political capital Gitega on Sunday, they said. He hails from the hardline wing of Burundi’s regime, which has been accused by rights watchdogs of brutal and long-running abuses. Ndikuriyo, 50, is “one of the regime’s hawks, a tough man who often uses controversial words,” an expert told AFP on condition of anonymity. His choice reflects “the total grip the radicals and the military have on the party and the country,” the specialist added. Ndikuriyo, a leader in the Hutu rebellion whose former generals have long exercised an iron grasp on power, was speaker of the senate from 2015 to 2020. AFP

Kenyan Poacher and Drug Trafficker Mansour Extradited to the US

Infamous ivory, rhinoceros horn poacher and drug trafficker Abubakar Mansur Mohammed Surur alias Mansour was extradited from Kenya to New York over the weekend, coming just months after he was arrested at Moi International Airport. New York District Attorney Audrey Strauss revealed on Monday that Mansour is part of an international syndicate engaging in the illicit trade that has been evading law enforcement officers for years. The suspect was arrested on July 29, 2020 by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) immediately he landed at the airport in a chartered flight from Yemen. Mansour, 60, is wanted in the US for allegedly conspiring to sell 10 tonnes of elephant ivory and more than 181kg of rhinoceros horn across a seven-year period. The EastAfrican

Spectre of Conflict Threatens the Future of CAR ‘Sandfishers’

As if summoned by the setting sun, dozens of wooden canoes laden with a precious cargo come in to moor on the shores of the Ubangi River. Young men disembark from the boats and converge in the cool shade of a mango tree, while porters begin to unload their catch. A sweet palm wine makes the rounds as the smoke of cigarettes billows into the air. Although they have spent their day out on the water, these men are not after the river’s staple fish, the capitaine (Nile perch). Rather, the men known locally as “sandfishers” dive to collect sand from the riverbed for construction. This decades-old industry provides essential sand to builders, who mix it with cement to fuel Bangui’s construction industry. It is also a lifeline for hundreds in the Central African Republic’s (CAR) capital, Bangui, where poverty is rife and work scarce. … But the livelihoods of these men are at risk by a resurgence in violence that is threatening to once again engulf CAR, a resource-rich but poverty-stricken country where armed groups control large swaths of territory. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones