Africa Media Review for January 3, 2022

Africa’s Coups and the Role of External Actors
The recent rise in coups in Africa reflects a waning regional and international willingness to enforce anti-coup norms. Reversing the trend requires incentivizing democracy and consistently imposing real costs on coup makers. … The 82 coups Africa experienced between 1960 and 2000 were devastating for the continent—contributing to the instability, corruption, human rights abuses, impunity, and poverty that characterized many African countries during that era. Coups, moreover, are contagious. A successful coup significantly increases the probability of subsequent coups—in that country as well as its neighbors. The recent spate of coups in Africa, therefore, is bad news. In the past two years there have been coups in Mali (twice), Chad, Guinea, Sudan, Tunisia, and, arguably, Algeria and Burundi—many of which were navigating democratic transitions. This variant of the coup bug can be traced back to the coups in Egypt and Zimbabwe a few years earlier. That means nearly 20 percent of African countries have succumbed to coups since 2013. The continent, thus, risks hurtling back to bad old days of military misgovernance—a period often remembered for its “lost decades.” Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Sudan’s Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, Resigns
Sudan’s prime minister, who was ousted in a military coup but reinstated over a month ago, resigned on Sunday, in the latest upheaval to disrupt the country’s shaky transition to democracy from dictatorship. The decision by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok came as widespread protests gripped the northeast African nation. Protesters denounced not just the coup that unseated Mr. Hamdok in October but also the deal that returned him to power in November. Opposition political groups and other major political forces rejected it as an unacceptable concession to the military, which has controlled Sudan for most of its history since it became an independent state more than six decades ago. In a televised address on Sunday evening, Mr. Hamdok said that repeated mediation attempts had failed in recent days and that the country needed to engage in a new dialogue to chart a path toward a democratic, civilian state. … The civilian-military coalition was fraught, in part because the generals worried that their privileges, long jealously guarded, might evaporate. With Mr. Hamdok’s resignation, protests are likely to continue, analysts said, intensifying pressure against the military. That has the potential to push members of the armed groups to abandon their deal with the government, further undermining the legitimacy of General al-Burhan and his allies. The New York Times

Mali Opposition Rejects Election Delay in New Transition Plan
A major coalition of political parties in Mali has rejected the military-dominated government’s plan to extend a transition period for up to five years before the country returns to democratic rule. The coalition, known as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), said in a statement on Sunday that the “unilateral and unreasonable” timetable was in violation of the transition charter “and cannot in any way be the deep desire of the Malian people.” “[We] reserve the right to use every possible legal mean to ensure that the democratic principles obtained through a long battle and numerous sacrifices will not be wiped out by attempts at confiscating power through force and deceit,” added the CNSP, which represents some 10 parties. The transitional government had initially agreed to hold presidential and legislative elections in February 2022, amid pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc. Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop submitted the new plans to ECOWAS on Saturday, following a national reform conference boycotted by political parties and social organisations. … ECOWAS, which has threatened to impose further sanctions on Mali’s ruling military government for postponing the elections, is due to hold an extraordinary summit about Mali in Ghana’s capital, Accra, on January 9. Al Jazeera

US Removes Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from AGOA Trade Programme
The United States has cut Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea out of a duty-free trade programme over alleged human rights violations and recent coups. In a statement on Saturday, the US Trade Representative (USTR) said it terminated the three countries from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) “due to actions taken by each of their governments in violation of the AGOA Statute.” It said the US was deeply concerned “by the gross violations of internationally recognised human rights being perpetrated by the government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia”, as well as by “the unconstitutional change in governments in both Guinea and Mali.” … The AGOA trade legislation provides sub-Saharan African nations with duty-free access to the US if they meet certain eligibility requirements, such as eliminating barriers to US trade and investment and making progress towards political pluralism. Al Jazeera

COVID-19 Vaccinations: African Nations Miss WHO Target
A target for achieving full vaccination rates of 40% in every country by the end of December has been missed across most of Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) put forward the goal earlier this year, but only about 9% of people on the continent have been fully vaccinated against Covid so far. These low rates of vaccination have been of particular concern following the identification of the Omicron variant in South Africa, and its rapid global spread in recent weeks. Just seven countries on the continent have reached the 40% target. Three of these are small island nations where the logistical challenges are much easier to overcome. Seychelles and Mauritius have fully vaccinated more than 70% of their populations, Cape Verde around 45%. … Many countries, including some of the continent’s largest, have so far vaccinated fewer than 5% of their populations. Nigeria has fully vaccinated 2.1%. … The WHO has set a further target of 70% coverage for all countries by June 2022, but this could also be missed across Africa. “As things stand, predictions are that Africa may not reach the 70% vaccination coverage target until August 2024,” WHO Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti says. … An update in December said that although Covax supply had increased, there was still uncertainty over the numbers of doses it might get. The WHO says Africa needs more than 900m vaccine doses to fully vaccinate 40% of its population. As of 30 December, the continent had received just over 474m doses in total – from the Covax initiative as well as the Africa Union vaccine acquisition scheme, and through bilateral deals. BBC

Nigerian Police Kill 38 Bandits in Katsina State
Thirty-eight bandits and five police officers have been killed in an offensive carried out in parts of Nigeria’s North West Katsina state to rid the region of bandits that have continued to attack, kill and kidnap people. The public relations officer of Katsina State Police Command, Mr Gambo Isa, who spoke on behalf of the Commissioner of Police, Mr Sanusi Buba, said on Thursday that during the operation, 874 suspected bandits were arrested and were undergoing profiling. Reporting that the offensive against the rampaging bandits was carried out during the week, he said: “Indeed, it is no doubt a challenging period for the command.’’ “Nevertheless, the Command has recorded tremendous successes against the menace of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of crime and criminality in the state.” Nation

Why Did Uganda Send Troops Into Congo?
It has been a month since Uganda began air and artillery strikes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and then sent in its troops, in an operation targeting a rebel group it accuses of carrying out a string of deadly attacks in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces, is considered the deadliest armed outfit in the region and was designated as a terrorist organization this year by the United States. Uganda hopes the assault, which is being conducted jointly with Congolese forces, will evict the group from its bases in Congo. But among some civilians and observers, the incursion has raised numerous concerns. Many cite Uganda’s conduct during a previous intervention in Congo, from 1998-2003, when its forces were accused of killing and torturing civilians, plundering natural resources, and destroying villages. The latest mission, analysts say, could also compound regional security tensions, particularly with neighboring Rwanda, and could lead to reprisals against civilians, as has happened in the past. … Experts have also said that a military approach risks overshadowing lasting solutions to the violence in eastern Congo, where more than 120 armed groups operate. They include improving governance, tackling corruption, introducing military demobilization plans along with reconciliation efforts in local communities, Mr. Stearns of Congo Research Group said. “There’s no way out of this morass militarily,” he said. The New York Times

South Africa: Man Charged with Arson over Blaze at Parliament
South African police said a man had been charged with arson over a fire that caused extensive damage to the national parliament building in Cape Town, as firefighters struggled to extinguish the last remains of the blaze. The fire broke out early on Sunday at the parliamentary complex, some of which dates back to 1884 and includes the national assembly, or lower house, of parliament. It caused the collapse of the roof of a part of the complex housing the upper chamber, or National Council of Provinces (NCOP), on Sunday and gutted an entire floor, though there were no reports of anybody being hurt. A 49-year-old suspect arrested in connection with the blaze is expected to appear in court on Tuesday and will face charges of housebreaking and theft as well as arson, an elite police unit known as the Hawks said in a statement. “It is alleged that he gained entrance through the window in one of the offices,” the Hawks spokesperson Brig Nomthandazo Mbambo told eNCA television, adding that investigations were continuing into how the suspect had managed to evade security. “There is a possibility of other charges being added as there was a security breach here,” Mbambo said. Reuters

Richard Leakey, Kenyan Fossil Hunter and Conservationist, Dies at 77
Richard Leakey, the Kenyan paleoanthropologist and fossil hunter whose discoveries of ancient human skulls and skeletons helped cement Africa’s place as the cradle of humanity, died on Sunday in Kenya. He was 77. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya announced Mr. Leakey’s death in a statement, but did not specify the cause of death. Mr. Leakey died at his home outside Nairobi, said Prof. Lawrence Martin, director of Stony Brook University’s Turkana Basin Institute, which Mr. Leakey founded. … The fossils that Mr. Leakey and his “Hominid Gang” found there would change the world’s understanding of human evolution. One of his most celebrated finds came in 1984 when he helped unearth “Turkana Boy,” a 1.6-million-year-old skeleton of a young male Homo erectus. The other was a skull called “1470,” found in 1972, that extended the world’s knowledge of the Homo erectus species several million years deeper into the past. “He was a mentor to dozens of Africans in diverse fields and had played a key role in shaping the world’s view on Africa’s place in the human evolution story,” WildlifeDirect, the organization he founded, said in a statement on Sunday. … Among his roles were Kenya’s head of public service, the director of the National Museums of Kenya and the chairman of the board for the Kenya Wildlife Service, Mr. Kenyatta said in his statement. The New York Times