Africa Media Review for January 27, 2021

Nigeria Names New Military Chiefs Amid Spreading Militant Violence
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed a new military high command, a spokesman said on Tuesday, after years of mounting criticism over spreading violence by Islamist insurgents and armed gangs. … Leo Irabor was named to the powerful Chief of Defence Staff post, which oversees the main military branches, the presidency spokesman said, while I. Attahiru, A.Z. Gambo and I.O. Amao would command the army, navy and air force respectively. Hopes were high after initial successes pushing back Islamist Boko Haram insurgents in 2015 and 2016, but with the rise of Islamic State’s West African branch, formerly part of Boko Haram, the military ceded many of its gains. Now, swathes of the northeast of Africa’s most populous country and biggest oil producer are out of government control, with soldiers hunkered down in defensive positions and regularly killed by insurgents while on patrol. Reuters

Tunisian Protesters March on Parliament Amid Government Reshuffle
Tunisian riot police turned water cannon on protesters outside the heavily barricaded parliament on Tuesday, trying to quell the largest rally since demonstrations began this month over inequality and police abuses. Hundreds of protesters had marched from the Ettadhamen district of the capital Tunis, where young people have clashed with police several nights this month, and were joined by hundreds more near the parliament. Police blocked the march with barricades to prevent protesters approaching the parliament building where lawmakers were holding a tense debate on a disputed government reshuffle. … In parliament, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi proposed a new cabinet, a move President Kais Saied had on Monday rejected as unconstitutional. The political deadlock in Tunisia since elections in 2019 has stymied efforts to address festering economic problems, with both foreign lenders and the main labour union demanding reforms. Last year, as the global coronavirus pandemic struck, Tunisia’s economy shrank by more than 8%. Reuters

100 Jihadists Killed in Joint French-Malian Offensive in Central Mali, Says Army
A hundred jihadists were killed this month in a joint Franco-Malian offensive in the West African country’s lawless centre, the Malian army said Tuesday. “One hundred terrorists were neutralised, about 20 captured and several motorbikes and war equipment were seized” during the operation with France’s Barkhane force, which aims to eradicate jihadists in the Sahel region, the Malian army said on its website. Mali has been struggling with a jihadist insurgency that broke out in the north of the country in 2012 before spreading to the centre and then to Burkina Faso and Niger, often inflaming ethnic rivalries. France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, first intervened in the country in 2013 to help drive back jihadist forces advancing on Bamako. … Earlier this month the French military said it had killed 15 jihadists near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso, where an al-Qaeda-linked group is active. AFP

Somali Journalists Worry About Arrests Ahead of Elections
The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), a press freedom group, says at least 14 journalists have been arrested and a radio station attacked in the country in just three weeks. The group condemned the latest attacks on media organizations and their workers, which come as Somalia prepares for parliamentary and presidential elections. Osman Aweys Bahar is one of the arrested journalists. South West federal state security officers stormed his radio station in the town of Barawe, taking him into custody and pulling the FM station off the air. “They arrested me because we aired the opinions of the public, complaining about the bad governance of Barawe town on the radio, Bahar said. “I was in jail for four days and the four days I was behind bars the radio was off the air. I was released after elders intervened on the issue but they told me to continue with my work and to stop airing the voices of those opposing the administration.” … The current Somali government mandate ends February 8 with no end in sight to the disagreement over how to conduct the parliamentary and presidential elections. The growing tension has increased the appetite for news, but may lead to further problems for Somali journalists as they try to keep the public informed. VOA

Ethiopia Says No Border Talks until Sudan Leaves Contested Land
Ethiopia said Tuesday it would not engage in border talks with Sudan until Sudanese troops withdrew from contested land, potentially complicating efforts to defuse a dispute that has fuelled deadly clashes in recent weeks. The two Horn of Africa nations have long been at odds over the Al-Fashaqa region, where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land claimed by Sudan. Since early December Sudan has accused Ethiopian “forces and militias” of ambushing Sudanese troops along the border, while Ethiopia has accused Sudan of killing “many civilians” in attacks involving “heavy machine guns.” The two sides held border talks last month, and Sudan declared in late December that its army had restored control over all border territory that had been taken over by Ethiopian farmers. AFP

Nigeria: One Feared Dead as Shi’ites, Police Clash in Abuja
One person was feared dead on Tuesday, following a clash between security agents and protesters, mostly members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, (Shi’ites), demanding the release of their detained leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, from government custody. Witnesses said the death was caused by security agents sent to quell the street protest. The victim was allegedly killed by a bullet fired by the police. The protest, which started near the head office of the National Human Rights Commission on Aguiyi Ironsi Street, Maitama, escalated when the police stormed the area, and fired shots and teargas canisters to disperse the crowd. Vanguard

South Africa Cracks Down on Bitcoin After Alleged Ponzi Scheme
South Africa’s finance-industry regulator wants more power to prosecute perpetrators of fraud and oversee dealing in cryptocurrencies after the collapse of a Bitcoin trader, alleged to be the country’s largest Ponzi scheme. The Financial Sector Conduct Authority is making proposals to regulate trading in cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, XRP and Litecoin, the watchdog’s head of enforcement, Brandon Topham, said by phone. The FSCA has handed details of its probe into the failure of Mirror Trading International Ltd. to a top police unit after uncovering alleged fraud. … MTI — which in November claimed it had 260,000 members from around the world and 23,000 Bitcoin now worth about $740 million — was placed in provisional liquidation last month after clients battled to withdraw funds. A surge in the price of the world’s best-known digital token has been accompanied by convictions abroad in scams tied to digital platforms and speculation that authorities globally will seek tighter controls. Bloomberg

Only One of the World’s 29 Poorest Countries Has Started Coronavirus Vaccinations
World Health Organization officials said last week that the West African nation of Guinea is the only low-income country of 29 to begin vaccinating. And those efforts have been limited in scope — just 55 people out of the population of more than 12 million have received doses so far. The initiative, using the Russia-backed Sputnik V vaccine, began Dec. 30 as part of a pilot program carried out on an “experimental basis,” Sakoba Keita, director general of Guinea’s National Health Security Agency, told The Washington Post. The Russian government proposed the idea, in a “climate of good bilateral relations,” and Guinea accepted, Keita said. Most of the initial vaccinations went to government officials: President Alpha Condé, 82, received a shot in early January. … Ranu S. Dhillon, an infectious-disease expert at Harvard Medical School, said he was concerned that allowing the virus to spread widely in countries without the means to procure vaccines could allow more variants to emerge, against which vaccines could be less effective. The Washington Post

Cyclone Eloise Affected 250,000 People in Mozambique, Says UN
A tropical cyclone that struck central Mozambique last week has affected 250,000 people, a sharp increase over initial estimates, according to a UN official. Myrta Kaulard, the UN’s resident coordinator in Mozambique, added on Tuesday that 18,000 people were internally displaced after Cyclone Eloise made landfall in the early hours of Saturday. “Yesterday, we were mentioning 170,000 people affected. Today, the official figures have climbed to 250,000,” Kaulard said in a video call with reporters at the UN, adding that 76 health centres and hundreds of classrooms were damaged. “We also see widespread floods that are still there and a lot of people trying still to get out of the flooded areas,” she said. … An international aid group warned on Tuesday that crowded centres for storm survivors created ideal conditions for the coronavirus to spread. In the port city of Beira alone, 8,700 people are living in 16 temporary shelters after their homes were destroyed by the cyclone. Al Jazeera

On the Brink of Extinction, the Northern White Rhino Now Has a Chance at Survival
The northern white rhino is on the brink of extinction. Poachers decimated the population, but now science has a chance to bring it back. [Video] VOA



Photo: Adam Jones