Africa Media Review for January 28, 2021

DR Congo Parliament Votes Out Pro-Kabila PM
DR Congo lawmakers on Wednesday approved a motion to force out Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, handing President Felix Tshisekedi a key victory in his bid to sideline allies of his predecessor. The National Assembly approved a motion of censure against Ilunga Ilunkamba and his government by 367 votes to seven. Under the Democratic Republic of Congo’s constitution, parliamentary censure requires the prime minister to step down within 24 hours. The vote marks the latest episode in a power struggle that has roiled sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest nation for months, pitching Tshisekedi against loyalists to former president Joseph Kabila, who ruled the DRC for 18 years. … Tshisekedi won a controversial presidential election on December 30, 2018 on a platform vowing to fight corruption, reduce inequalities and improve government. But he says his campaign of reform has been thwarted by Kabila’s lieutenants, who account for two-thirds of the vast 65-member coalition government. … Kabila’s rule was fiercely criticised for corruption and poor governance. AFP

Nigerian President Ousts Military Chiefs Who Failed to Quell Violence
When a former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, was first elected president in 2015, many Nigerians thought he would deliver on promises to defeat Islamist militants in the country’s northeast and ratchet down the violence. But today, the Boko Haram insurgency and its offshoots continue to bring terror, displacement and hunger to millions of people. Across Nigeria, gangs of kidnappers are taking hostages in ever greater numbers. And thousands of herders and farmers have died in a spiraling conflict that began over access to land. So when on Tuesday Mr. Buhari ousted all four of the country’s military chiefs, many Nigerians breathed a collective sigh of relief. But others said that nearly six years into his tenure, it was too little, too late. … In his first meeting with his new military chiefs, Mr. Buhari admitted for the first time that Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, was in a “state of emergency.” The 78-year-old president has little more than two years to do something about it before his second and final term expires. The New York Times

Coronavirus Variant Sweeps South Africa, Exhibiting ‘Terrifying’ Dominance
South Africa was already one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus, but in the six weeks since a new, more transmissible variant was first publicly announced here, an enormous spike of new cases and deaths has far surpassed previous waves of the pandemic. The variant is thought to have emerged in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province but has now been found in at least 31 countries, sparking fears its unmitigated spread to new parts of the world could usher in new waves of contagion just as the long slog of global vaccine rollout gets underway. The variant identified in South Africa is not yet proved to be more lethal than others, including similarly highly transmissible variants recently detected in Britain and Brazil, but mutations that make it around 50 percent easier to catch have allowed it to stage a takeover of what was already out-of-control community transmission in South Africa. … Harrowing statistics released this week by the South African Medical Research Council show excess mortality numbers shooting nearly straight up in all of the country’s nine provinces. The Washington Post

Vaccine-Averse Tanzania Told to Follow Science
The World Health Organization (WHO) urged Tanzania on Thursday to follow science, a day after its president said COVID-19 vaccines were dangerous and unnecessary if people trusted God and used alternative remedies such as inhaling steam. President John Magufuli’s contradiction of the global medical consensus and his government’s failure to publish national coronavirus data since mid-2020 has exasperated health experts. “Urging #Tanzania to ramp up public health measures such as wearing masks to fight #COVID19,” tweeted Matshidiso Moeti, Africa director for the WHO. “Science shows that #VaccinesWork and I encourage the government to prepare for a COVID vaccination campaign.” … Tanzania has not published nationwide figures since May 8, when it had 509 cases and 21 deaths. “Data-sharing by #Tanzania is also key, with cases surfacing among travellers and visitors over the months,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a tweet echoing Moeti’s remarks. Reuters

UN Urges Consensus as Deadline for Somalia Vote Looms
UN special envoy James Swan on Wednesday warned that Somalia was approaching “unpredictable territory” should its political leaders not broker an urgent settlement over how to proceed with delayed elections. Somalia was scheduled to hold indirect parliamentary and presidential elections before February 8 but the process has been derailed by political disagreements between the foreign-backed central government in Mogadishu and its federal states. Swan said it was “unrealistic” at this point to expect the election to occur on time, with a number of key procedural steps already months behind schedule. The UN special representative said the focus instead was on breaking the political deadlock, and reaching a consensus that avoids further instability in a fragile country already wracked by clan violence and a deadly Islamist insurgency. AFP

Somalia Threatens to Leave IGAD over Kenya Dispute
Somalia on Wednesday threatened to withdraw from a regional bloc after the group ruled in favour of Kenya in a diplomatic row between the two countries. A fact-finding mission was created by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) last month seeking an intervention aimed at easing tensions between the two neighbouring countries. On December 15, Somalia cut diplomatic ties with Kenya and wrote to the regional bloc of eight members, demanding an independent mission to verify claims that Kenya was arming and training militia to fight the Somalia National Army forces stationed in Gedo near their common border. Led by Djiboutian Ambassador to Kenya Yacin Elmi Bouh and his counterpart to Somalia Aden Hassan Aden, the team that also included an Igad observer, said they had found no evidence supporting violations by Kenya. … The report criticised Somalia for severing ties with Kenya, arguing the historical problems faced by the two countries could only be solved through deeper diplomatic engagements. The EastAfrican

Kenyan President Urges South Sudan Leaders to Expedite Peace Process
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged South Sudan leaders to expedite the implementation of the pending issues in the peace deal signed in September 2018. He made the remarks during a meeting with the United States Special Envoy for South Sudan, Ambassador Stuart Symington and his British counterpart, Bob Fairweather in Nairobi on Tuesday. The Kenyan leader cited the establishment of the legislative assembly and reforms in the security sector as some of the pending areas that require the attention of South Sudan leaders. He assured the two diplomats of Kenya’s continued support for the peace process in neighbouring South Sudan, saying his country will leverage on its United Nations Security Council membership to help the young nation and the region attain stability. … In February 2020, the parties to South Sudan’s peace agreement formed a coalition government. Until now, however, there are several key unresolved issues, including the security arrangements and agreement on finalization of governance structures. Sudan Tribune

AFRICOM Hails ‘New Beginning’ in US-Sudan Relationship
This week, Africom’s deputy commander for Civil-Military Engagement Andrew Young and Director of Intelligence Rear Adm. Heidi Berg arrived in what they described as a “historic visit” to Sudan “to foster cooperative engagement and expand partnership development.” “This week is a significant moment in the resumption of a relationship between our two countries, a relationship based on trust and a mutual commitment to ensuring peace and prosperity in Eastern Africa,” Berg said in a statement released by Africom. She stressed the need to ensure that military and government institutions in Sudan are rooted in transparency, accountability, respect for human rights as it embarks on a new strategy for countering terrorist radicalization and recruitment. Berg spoke to the Sudanese Higher Military Academy professionals about the importance of professional militaries and U.S. Africa Command’s commitment to partnership in Africa. Sudan Tribune

Aid Efforts in Ethiopia’s Tigray Thwarted by Lack of Access
About 1.3 million Ethiopian children continue to suffer despite humanitarian efforts 12 weeks into the conflict in the Tigray Region, the United Nations’ children’s agency said in a press release Wednesday. UNICEF’s inability to fully assess the impact on children because of access restrictions could worsen their conditions, the release said. “Our knowledge of the situation is still very limited. Our concern is that what we don’t know could be even more disturbing.” Limited knowledge gleaned from the accounts of partner organizations and U.N. assessments indicate health care delivery has stopped due to the destruction of health facilities or pillaging of essential supplies. In effect, immunizations have also stopped in Ethiopia’s troubled region, according to the release, which said access to water and sanitation systems has been curtailed by the lack of fuel to power them. … UNICEF said the parties to the conflict have a “fundamental obligation to enable rapid, unimpeded, and sustained access to civilians in need of assistance.” VOA

Anger in Somalia as Sons Secretly Sent to Serve in Eritrea Military Force
Ali Jamac Dhoodi thought his son was working as a security guard in Qatar, helping prepare for next year’s soccer World Cup. Then one day last April, officials from Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency arrived with $10,000 in cash. They told him his son had died – not in Qatar, but in Eritrea, one of the world’s most secretive countries. “They showed me a picture from their WhatsApp and asked me, ‘do you know this picture and his full name?’ I said, ‘yes he is my son,’” Dhoodi, 48, told Reuters. “They said to me ‘your son died’. I cried.” They gave him the money, and told him not to ask questions. Ali’s son was one of three young Somali men whose families told Reuters they had been recruited by Somalia’s federal government for jobs in Qatar, only to surface in Eritrea, where they were sent to serve in a military force against their will. Two other families said their sons had simply disappeared. The apparent secret recruitment of young Somali men for a fighting force in Eritrea is stirring public anger in Somalia, a poor country where opportunities to work abroad are eagerly sought. Reuters

Ethnic Groups in Central Mali Sign ‘Three Peace Agreements’
Three “peace agreements” have been signed by representatives from herder and farmer communities that have become trapped in violence sparked by armed group attacks in central Mali, a Swiss mediator said. The accords bring together the Fulani – also called Peul – who mainly comprise semi-nomadic herders, and the Dogon, who are chiefly sedentary farmers. The two groups have historic tensions over access to land and water, but the friction turned bloody after armed fighters pushed into their region more than five years ago. “On 12, 22 and 24 January 2021, the Fulani and Dogon communities signed three peace agreements with humanitarian objectives,” the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), a Swiss organisation, said on Tuesday. They apply to Koro, a county-sized area bordering Burkina Faso that has borne some of the worst bloodshed, it said in a statement. Remote and dangerous, the area is only entered regularly by humanitarian groups, United Nations patrols and the army. Under the accords, the signatories pledged to encourage members of their communities “to work for peace by forgiving past acts and spread messages of cohesion and calm.” Al Jazeera

France’s Macron Holds Meeting with Mali’s Interim Leader Ahead of G5 Sahel
French President Emmanuel Macron has met with Mali’s interim leader on Wednesday to discuss joint security operations in the region amid a rise in jihadist attacks. This comes on the heels of the dissolution of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, a military junta which took over after the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August last year. … Under the threat of international sanctions, and pressure from the 15-member Economic Community of West African States, the coup leaders were to hand power to a caretaker government, which is meant to rule for 18 months before staging elections. But Mali’s military retained a tight grip on the interim government, with Coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita taking up the post of interim vice president, raising questions about the military’s continuing influence. … Macron has said that he intends to “adjust” France’s efforts in the region, and is counting on the new European force, Takuba, to support troops. RFI

South Africa: No One Is above the Law, Constitutional Court Tells Zuma
Jacob Zuma has been ordered to comply with all summonses issued to him by the Zondo commission. The former president also does not have the right to remain silent during his appearances before the commission, the Constitutional Court ruled. On Thursday the apex gave its ruling in the showdown between Zuma and the commission of inquiry into state capture, which is chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. After a year and a half of dodging Zondo, the Constitutional Court’s judgment means the commission’s star witness will be compelled to answer the allegations against him. Zuma — who has been implicated by more than 30 witnesses in allegations of state capture — walked out of the commission last November despite appearing there under a summons. This was after his bid to have Zondo recuse himself failed. The commission issued a fresh summons to have Zuma appear before it this month. It turned to the Constitutional Court to enforce the summons and declare Zuma’s behaviour in November unlawful and in breach of the Commissions Act. Mail & Guardian

Zimbabwean Journalist Released on Bail after Weeks in Prison
Zimbabwe’s High Court on Wednesday freed on bail journalist Hopewell Chin’ono who had spent nearly three weeks in prison — his third detention in five months. Chin’ono repeatedly expressed fears of catching COVID-19 in jail due to the overcrowded conditions in Chikurubi prison and charges that his repeated imprisonments are harassment by a government rattled by his social media posts exposing alleged corruption. A magistrate had initially denied him bail mid-January, saying Chin’ono could commit similar crimes if released, citing two other cases in which, like the current one, the journalist was arrested for items he posted on Twitter. His lawyers appealed to Zimbabwe’s High Court. … Chin’ono is one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, accusing it of corruption and human rights abuses. AP

Africa’s Free-Trade Area: What Difference Will It Make?
Africa’s free-trade area became reality on 1 January 2021, promising to make it easier to do business across the continent. The idea, which has been talked about for years, is to create one of the world’s biggest free-trade areas, opening up a market of more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined GDP of more than $3 trillion (£2 trillion). This would create business opportunities – and jobs – across Africa, while reducing the cost of some goods in the shops and markets. The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area follows years of negotiations and preparations, and more recently faced months of delays due to the global coronavirus pandemic. From [January 1], the 41 countries that had submitted their plans to reduce tariffs, or taxes on imported goods, were able to trade goods under the new rules. Each state or regional trade bloc makes their own plans and that information is eventually hosted on the Africa Trade Observatory (ATO) website. Under the trade deal, tariffs on 90% of goods will be phased out within 10 years and more for the remaining 10%. This is being done in stages and so could take up to 2035, according to the AfCFTA secretariat. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones