Africa Media Review for January 29, 2021

Africa Secures Another 400 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses
Another 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been secured for the African continent through the Serum Institute of India, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. With the new doses, on top of the 270 million doses announced earlier this month from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, “I think we’re beginning to make very good progress,” Africa CDC director John Nkengasong told reporters. He said the new doses were announced in a meeting hosted by South Africa’s president on Wednesday. An Africa CDC spokesman said the 400 million doses are of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. … Parts of the African continent are seeing a strong resurgence in coronavirus infections, which Nkengasong called “very aggressive.” He warned that the wave has not yet peaked. Africa’s case fatality rate of 2.5% remains above the global one of 2.2%, and 14 of Africa’s 54 countries have case fatality rates above 3%. The continent has more than 3.4 million confirmed virus cases, including more than 87,000 deaths. AP

COVID Fatigue Risks Sparking Surge of Infections in Africa
In the past week, the WHO reports more than 175,000 new COVID-19 cases across Africa and 6,200 deaths. The U.N. health agency says cases and deaths are surging because of the appearance of more contagious variants of COVID-19 on the continent. The WHO says the 501Y.V2 variant first identified in South Africa has now spread to Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, the French Indian Ocean region of Mayotte and in 24 non-African nations. It says a new strain detected in Britain also now has been found in Gambia and Nigeria. WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti says the fear of these COVID-19 mutants circulating widely in other African countries keeps her awake at night. “In addition to the new variants, COVID-19 fatigue in the population and the aftermath of year-end gatherings and travel risk powering a perfect storm and driving up Africa’s second wave and overwhelming health facilities,” said Moeti. Moeti says Africa is at the crossroads and urges people to double up on public health measures to keep the virus from spreading. These include wearing masks, handwashing and social distancing. VOA

Gunmen Kidnap, Kill Dozens in Nigeria after Military Revamp
At least 30 people were kidnapped and a dozen others killed in a series of attacks in northwest Nigeria, witnesses told AFP Thursday, hours after the president had replaced his military commanders. President Muhammadu Buhari has been under increasing pressure as his military struggles to resolve Nigeria’s security problems. The country is battling a decade-long insurgency in the northeast, armed gangs in the northwest, communal conflicts in central regions, separatist tensions in the southeast, and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. On Thursday motorcycle-riding gunmen stormed Kungi village in Kaduna state, killing one and taking away 30 people, residents said. “They came around 2:00 am (0100 GMT) and moved door-to-door, seizing people,” resident Umaru Abdullahi said. “We did a headcount after the gunmen left and we realized they had taken 30 people,” said Abdullahi, who has three relatives among the hostages. … Earlier on Wednesday in neighboring Katsina state, gunmen raided Unguwar Sarki and Bilbis villages, killing 11 people and stealing cattle, locals told AFP. The Defense Post with AFP

Puntland, Jubbaland Finally Join Somalia Electoral Process
Under intense international pressure to participate in the February 8 election, Somalia regional states Puntland and Jubbaland have now nominated eight members each to the electoral committee. The move eases one of the hurdles to holding elections in Somalia, which have been delayed since last year after an impasse arose mainly from the listing of polling officials meant to conduct the elections. In a joint statement on Wednesday night, the two states said they agreed to take part in the electoral process following persuasion by the international community, but called for a meeting of the National Consultative Forum (NCF) before the end of January to address outstanding issues. … International partners had voiced concern for the impasse over the September 2020 agreement on the election model, calling for quick implementation of the dialogue through negotiations so that credible elections could proceed as soon as possible. The EastAfrican

Ethiopia Moves Artillery to Sudanese Border after Deadly Clashes
Ethiopia moved heavy weapons to disputed territory on its border with Sudan, according to people familiar with the matter. The military build-up in an area known as the al-Fashqa triangle signals increasing tensions, after deadly clashes in recent weeks raised international concern. Sudanese officials met Saudi Arabian officials in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss the crisis, after the U.K. last week called for a de-escalation of tensions. … The border dispute is straining relations already weakened by an impasse over a giant hydropower dam Ethiopia is building on the main tributary of the Nile River. Sudan and Egypt depend on the flow of the river for fresh water, and both countries want Ethiopia to agree to rules on the filling and operating of the reservoir to safeguard supplies. … Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman, a member of Sudan’s transitional government, said Wednesday he’d sought political support from Saudi Arabia in talks he held in Riyadh, Sudan’s state-run SUNA news agency reported. Any eruption of war could affect security in the wider region, including the Red Sea, he said. Bloomberg

Sudan to Form Post-Peace Government on 4 February
The Council of Transitional Government Partners in Sudan, on Thursday, agreed to form the post-peace government and the long-time awaited parliament in February. The reshuffle of the transitional government comes in line with the peace agreement. Accordingly, the former armed groups that signed the 3 October 2020 peace agreement will join the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and the military component. On Thursday, the ruling partners held a meeting headed by the Chairman of the Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in which they decided that the government programme will be announced on 31 January while the new government and collective presidency will be formed on 4 February. “The meeting discussed the issues of completing the structures of the transitional period, which are the Sovereign Council, the Council of Ministers, the Legislative Council, the commissions and the state governors,” the council said in a statement received by the Sudan Tribune. The meeting also decided that the state governors will be appointed on 15 February while the transitional parliament and the commissions will be formed on 25 February. Sudan Tribune

Sudan: Journalists Allowed to Travel into Darfur after Criticism
The Sudanese Ministry of Culture and Information announced on Tuesday that foreign journalists will be allowed to travel to all regions in the western parts of Sudan, including the West Darfur capital El Geneina where the security situation is still volatile, after widespread criticism. The ministry explained in a press statement that the travel ban issued earlier this week was solely in place for El Geneina and concerned only foreign journalists and correspondents of foreign media organisations who applied for permission to visit. … However, the ministry explained that the External Media Department is the authority responsible for issuing travel permits, not the West Darfur authorities. The Information Ministry has agreed to facilitate the movement of journalists in the region with the Military Intelligence in Darfur, after some journalists faced difficulties moving around. The spokesperson for the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) denied restricting or preventing journalists and correspondents from reaching Darfur and confirmed that the Military Intelligence did not prevent travel anywhere within Sudan, nor did it receive any complaints. Radio Dabanga

‘Rejuvenation of Libyan Patriotism’ Deserves Full Security Council Support, Says UN Mission Chief
The top UN official in Libya urged the Security Council on Thursday to express clear support for a new unified government in Libya, amid hopeful signs that a decade of armed conflict might finally be coming to an end. Stephanie Williams, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), told the 15-member organ that intra-Libyan dialogues – facilitated by the Mission – have produced “tangible results.” Those include a ceasefire agreement in October between the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar, a roadmap for an interim executive authority ahead of elections on 24 December, and long-overdue economic reforms – but not, however, the exit of foreign fighters and mercenaries before a deadline that expired on 23 January. “Libyans are keen to turn the page, to reclaim Libyan sovereignty and ownership of their destiny as a people after many years of relentless armed conflict, societal fragmentation and crippling institutional division,” Ms. Williams told the Council, meeting via video-teleconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. UN News

Tanzania’s Leader Denies COVID. Now Countrymen Push Back.
Tanzania’s president says God has eliminated COVID-19 in his country. His own church now begs to differ. From the local Catholic authority warning this week of a new wave of coronavirus infections, to government institutions now requiring staffers to take precautions, populist President John Magufuli is being openly questioned as the African continent fights a strong resurgence in cases and deaths. “We are not an island,” the Catholic secretariat of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference said in a widely shared statement this week. It urged followers, which include the president, to pray but also to adopt measures long practiced in the rest of the world, including avoiding public gatherings and close personal contact. The church’s newspaper on Friday stressed in a large front-page headline: “There is corona.” … Asked about Tanzania on Thursday, Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director John Nkengasong told reporters that “if we do not fight this as a collective on the continent, we will be doomed.“ AP

Wake-up Call for Elite as COVID-19 Floods Zimbabwe’s Hospitals, Killing Rich and Poor
When Zimbabwe’s rich and powerful get sick, they often go abroad in search of the best treatment money can buy; ousted President Robert Mugabe died in a hospital in Singapore in 2019. With travel curtailed by the coronavirus, that luxury is not available, exposing the elite to a truth the majority has long known: Zimbabwe’s health system has been crumbling for years and is now struggling to cope with a spike in COVID-19 cases. Anger among overwhelmed medics is adding to broader public dissatisfaction with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who pledged an economic revival after he took over from Mugabe following a coup in 2017. “It’s a rude awakening to the government and to the politicians,” said Norman Matara, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights. “If you have decades of continuously destroying your public health system, and then now you have a pandemic, you cannot then overturn that decay … in one year or in six months.” Reuters

Greater Push for Extractives to Lift Veil of Secrecy as Corruption Bites
This, 2021, is the year of transparency in the extractive sectors, according to the United Nations, with an eye on reducing secrecy and corruption. On the Global Anti-Corruption Day, December 9, 2020, the UN General Assembly voted 2021 as an important year for fighting corruption in general and in the extractive industries in particular as an opportunity for countries rich in natural resources to recover from the shocks of Covid-19 pandemic. … The EITI is the global standard for the good governance of oil, gas and mineral resources. When implemented by a country, the EITI ensures transparency and accountability about how a country’s natural resources are governed. … According to Mark Robinson, the EITI executive director, the 55 countries implementing the EITI have reported over $2.71 trillion of total government revenue from the sector. “Yet revenues from oil and gas are much reduced. And corruption risks remain present, especially with diminished economic opportunities,” he said. In the Great Lakes Region, the illegal exploitation of natural resources has been recognised as one of the main underlying causes and effects of conflict. … In Africa, 26 countries … have committed themselves to EITI Standards. The EastAfrican

Dutch Appeals Court: Shell Nigeria Responsible for Oil Leaks, Must Pay Damages
A Dutch appeals court on Friday said that the Nigerian subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell was responsible for oil pipeline leaks in the Niger Delta and ordered it to pay unspecified damages to farmers. The case was brought in 2008 by four farmers and environmental group Friends of the Earth, seeking reparations for lost income from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta region, the heart of Nigeria’s oil industry. Friday’s decision went a step further than a 2013 ruling by a lower court, saying that Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was responsible for multiple cases of oil pollution. The appeals court said Shell had not proven “beyond reasonable doubt” that the oil spills had been caused by sabotage, rather than poor maintenance. “This makes Shell Nigeria responsible for the damage caused by the leaks”, the court said. “The amount of compensation to be paid will have to be determined at a later stage.” The court did not hold Shell’s parent company directly responsible, but ordered it to install a leak detection system on the Oruma pipeline, site of a significant number of the spills in the case. Reuters

Sani Abacha – the Hunt for the Billions Stolen by Nigeria’s Ex-Leader
When Nigeria’s then-head of state Sani Abacha stole billions of dollars and died before spending his loot, it prompted an international treasure hunt spread over decades. The man hired to get the money back tells the BBC’s Clare Spencer how the search took over his life. In September 1999, Swiss lawyer Enrico Monfrini answered a phone call that would change his next 20 years. “He called me in the middle of the night, he asked me if I could come to his hotel, he had something of importance. I said: ‘It’s a bit late but OK.'” The voice on the end of the line was that of a high-ranking member of the Nigerian government. … Mr Monfrini says the official was sent to Geneva by the Nigerian president at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo, to recruit him to get hold of the money stolen by Abacha, who ruled from 1993 until his death in 1998. … One of the methods used for accumulating such a colossal sum was particularly brazen. Abacha would tell an adviser to make a request to him for money for a vague security issue. He then signed off the request which the adviser would then take to the central bank, which would hand out the money, often in cash. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones