Africa Media Review for January 4, 2021

Dozens of Civilians Killed in Niger Gun Attacks

One hundred people were killed on Saturday in attacks on two villages in western Niger, Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said following one of deadliest days in recent memory for a country ravaged by Islamist violence. Rafini announced the death toll in remarks broadcast on national television on Sunday from a visit to the zone, near the border with Mali. He did not say who was responsible for the attacks. … The attack is believed to be in retaliation to the earlier killing of two fighters by villagers, the minister added. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Niger’s capital Niamey, said the attack took place in one of the most porous areas of the border. “Officials say they suspect the attackers crossed into Niger from neighbouring Mali. The area where the attack took place has also witnessed inter-communal violence. A government delegation is now on the way to the area to investigate what happened,” Idris said. … The violence came on the same day Niger announced the results from the first round of a presidential election. Al Jazeera

Niger to Hold Second Round of Presidential Vote Next Month

Niger will hold a second round in its presidential election after none of the 28 candidates in the Dec. 27 vote won a majority, according to results released Saturday by the electoral commission. Former foreign affairs minister Mohamed Bazoum of the ruling party will face off with former president Mahamane Ousmane on Feb. 21. Bazoum received 39.3% of the vote, while Ousmane received 16.9%, according to the National Independent Electoral Commission. Seini Oumarou of the National Movement for the Development of Society party came in third and Albade Abouba of the Patriotic Movement for the Republic came in fourth, each with just over 7%. The West African country is expected to see its first democratic transition of power since independence from France in 1960, while jihadists in the region pose a growing threat. Some 7.4 million Nigeriens were registered to vote to elect the successor to President Mahamadou Issoufou, who has served two terms and is stepping down. AP

Rebels Capture Central African Diamond-Mining City of Bangassou

Rebel fighters captured the southern diamond-mining city of Bangassou in the Central African Republic on Sunday, weeks after they were accused of an attempted coup and ahead of partial results from a tense presidential election. At least five rebels were killed and two army soldiers wounded in the clashes in the Central African city of Bangassou, which lies on the southern border with Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA said in a statement. Rebels, whom the government and UN say are backed by ex-president François Bozizé, launched an offensive last month after the constitutional court rejected Bozizé’s candidacy to challenge President Faustin-Archange Touadera in last Sunday’s vote. … The coalition of armed rebel groups, which control two thirds of the coup-prone country, launched an offensive on December 19 aiming to disrupt last weekend’s elections and “march on Bangui.” … “The rebels control the [Bangassou],” Rosevel Pierre Louis, head of the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA’s regional office in the city, told AFP. “They are everywhere.” France24 with AFP and Reuters

5 Killed, 14 Wounded in Suicide Attack in Somali Capital

A suicide bombing near the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Saturday killed five people including two Turks, Turkish and Somali officials said. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack in a post by its Shahada News Agency. … Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted that 14 people, including three Turks, were wounded and are being treated in a Mogadishu hospital named after Turkey’s president. Turkish security sources said the suicide attacker used a motorcycle. They said the attack took place 15 kilometers (8 miles) from a Turkish military base, which was not affected. The base is Turkey’s largest military installation abroad. … Separately on Saturday, the U.S. military said it had carried out two airstrikes against al-Shabab compounds near Qunya Barrow on Friday, the first such strikes of the year after more than 50 last year. A U.S. statement said both compounds were destroyed. AP

Congo Army Says Its Forces Recapture Eastern Village from Islamist Group

Congo said Saturday that 14 suspected Islamist militants and two soldiers were killed in fighting on New Year’s Day as the Congolese army backed by U.N. peacekeepers regained control of Loselose village in the east of the country. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group that has emerged as the most lethal of the militias in Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern borderlands, has carried out several attacks in recent weeks. “Yesterday Jan. 1, an army regiment overpowered the terrorists of the ADF in the village Loselose and dislodged them from the area located in the chiefdom of Ruwenzori,” army spokesman Antony Mualushayi said. A local official said on Friday that the ADF was responsible for the killing of 17 people who were found hacked to death in Beni Territory in North Kivu. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed in attacks attributed to the ADF in 2019 and 2020, according to U.N. figures. Reuters

Roadside Bomb Kills Two French Soldiers in Mali

Two French soldiers were killed Saturday when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in northeastern Mali, just days after three others died in similar fashion, the French presidency announced. President Emmanuel Macron “learned with great sadness” of the deaths of Sergeant Yvonne Huynh and Brigadier Loic Risser in the Menaka region, his office said in a statement. Huynh, 33, was the first female soldier sent to the Sahel region since the French operation began. Risser was 24. Both were members of a regiment specializing in intelligence work. … The al-Qaida-linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) has claimed responsibility for the earlier attack that killed three French soldiers in the center of Sahel state. Those deaths were also the result of an army vehicle hitting an explosive device. AFP

Is Boko Haram Gaining Foothold in Nigeria’s Northwest?

On December 11, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in an audio recording that his group was behind the abduction of the schoolboys in the town of Kankara in Katsina. The students, however, were released several days after being abducted by gunmen. … Regardless of whether Boko Haram was responsible for the kidnappings, some experts say the incident represents a worrying sign for stability and security in northern Nigeria. Shekau “has been able to claim it and that is in part because northwest Nigeria has been facing a simmering security crisis over the last year,” said Daniel Eizenga, an expert on violent extremism at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington. In recent months, northwestern Nigeria has witnessed growing intercommunal violence, including conflict between herders and farmers, violent crime from bandits, and initial indications that extremist groups may be gaining ground in the area. “Within this complicated context of rising insecurity, it is possible for Boko Haram to appear more dangerous and expansive than it may actually be,” Eizenga told VOA. VOA

Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan Resume Talks over Disputed Dam

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan resumed their years-long negotiations Sunday over the controversial dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, officials said. The resumption came six weeks after Khartoum boycotted talks in November, urging the African Union to play a greater role in reaching a deal over the disputed Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam. The negotiations have centered on the filling and operation of the giant dam. … Ethiopia has rejected binding arbitration at the final stage of the project. The foreign and irrigation ministers of the three Nile Valley countries met online Sunday, said Ahmed Hafez, the spokesman of Egypt’s Foreign Ministry. Sudan also confirmed the meeting. Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Minister Seleshi Bekele said earlier the meeting was called by South Africa, the current head of the African Union, and that U.S. observers and AU experts would attend. Sudan’s Irrigation Ministry said the three counties would hold separate talks with the AU experts and observers before a three-party meeting on Jan. 10. AP

Sudan PM Prioritises Peace in Independence Day Speech

In his address yesterday evening to the Sudanese people on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the country’s independence, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok confirmed that peace remains the priority of the transitional period. He said that without peace there will be no free, fair, and comprehensive elections or any agreement on a permanent constitution in Sudan. Hamdok announced the formation of a national mechanism for the protection of civilians, which will be a joint force made up of various regular forces and parties. He explained that through the establishment of the national mechanism for the protection of civilians, “we aspire to establish security in all parts of the country, stop extrajudicial killing, and prevent the loss of blood and impunity.” According to Hamdok, the armed forces and other regular forces are more prepared today to protect citizens, stating it is “the sacred duty of the armed forces and other regular forces to protect the constitution, democracy, and preserve the country’s borders.” Radio Dabanga

Sudan Opens New Camp for Ethiopian Refugees, as Coronavirus Hits Some of Them

The Sudanese authorities opened a new camp for Ethiopian refugees on Sunday in Altindeba area of Gedaref state, which coincides with the confirmation of coronavirus cases among the resident of Um Rakuba camp. The Sudanese authorities began transferring refugees to the Altindeba camp at the rate of 500 refugees per day from the Hashaba reception centre on the border with Ethiopia. Initially, it had been planned to transfer 1000 refugees per day, but the recording of COVID-19 cases in the Um Rakuba camp pushed the authorities to reconsider their plans to avoid the spread of the respiratory disease in the new camp. The Altindeba camp can accommodate about 30,000 refugees, while the Umm Rakuba camp has a capacity of 25,000 residents. According to health workers, the patients who are tested positive in Um Rabuka were transferred to an isolation centre. Residents who were in contact with the patients were tested. Also, safety equipment including masks and sterilizers have distributed to refugees. The continuing clashes between the federal army and the Tigray rebels led to an increase in the number of refugees fleeing to Sudan. Sudan Tribune

In Somalia, COVID-19 Vaccines Are Distant as Virus Spreads

It is places like Somalia, the Horn of Africa nation torn apart by three decades of conflict, that will be last to see COVID-19 vaccines in any significant quantity. With part of the country still held by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group, the risk of the virus becoming endemic in some hard-to-reach areas is strong — a fear for parts of Africa amid the slow arrival of vaccines. “There is no real or practical investigation into the matter,” said Hirabeh, who is also the director of the Martini hospital in Mogadishu, the largest treating COVID-19 patients, which saw seven new patients the day he spoke. He acknowledged that neither facilities nor equipment are adequate in Somalia to tackle the virus. Fewer than 27,000 tests for the virus have been conducted in Somalia, a country of more than 15 million people, one of the lowest rates in the world. Fewer than 4,800 cases have been confirmed, including at least 130 deaths. Some worry the virus will sink into the population as yet another poorly diagnosed but deadly fever. AP

Zimbabwe Returns to Restrictions Amid Rise in Virus Cases

In response to rising COVID-19 numbers, Zimbabwe has reintroduced a night curfew, banned public gatherings, and indefinitely suspended the opening of schools. “We are being overwhelmed and overrun,” Information Minister Nick Mangwana warned, saying the country’s hospitals are rapidly reaching capacity with COVID-19 patients. Zimbabwe recorded 1,342 cases and 29 deaths in the past week, “the highest number recorded so far,” Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said, announcing the strict measures. Zimbabwe’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 0.90 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 19 to 1.47 new cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 2. AP

Chad Locks Down Capital for First Time as COVID-19 Cases Rise

Chad has locked down its capital N’djamena for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and has declared a dusk to dawn curfew due to a rise in infections, a decree signed by President Idriss Deby showed on Friday. The West African nation has until now reported a relatively low number of cases compared with other countries in the region, with 2,113 COVID-19 cases since March, and 104 deaths. New daily cases fell into the single digits in early December, according to Reuters data. It has risen to double digits in recent days, mostly in the capital, including 36 on Friday, health ministry data showed. Reuters data showed that COVID-19 infections are increasing in Chad, with 19 new infections reported on average each day. That’s 68% of the peak — the highest daily average reported on May 10, as a second wave of infections hit the region. Reuters

‘Our Children Die in Our Hands’: Floods Ravage South Sudan

On a scrap of land surrounded by flooding in South Sudan, families drink and bathe from the waters that swept away latrines and continue to rise. Some 1 million people in the country have been displaced or isolated for months by the worst flooding in memory, with the intense rainy season a sign of climate change. The waters began rising in June, washing away crops, swamping roads and worsening hunger and disease in the young nation struggling to recover from civil war. Now famine is a threat. On a recent visit by The Associated Press to the Old Fangak area in hard-hit Jonglei state, parents spoke of walking for hours in chest-deep water to find food and health care as malaria and diarrheal diseases spread. … “We don’t have food here, we rely only on U.N. humanitarian agencies or by collecting firewood and selling it,” she said. “My children get sick because of the floodwaters, and there is no medical service in this place.” She said she eagerly waits for peace to return to the country, with the belief that medical services will follow “that will be even enough for us.” AP

Guinea-Bissau: UN Chief Commits to Continued Support as Peacebuilding Office Closes

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reaffirmed the Organization’s commitment to the people of Guinea-Bissau on Thursday, the final day of operations for the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the West African country (UNIOGBIS). … The closure of UNIOGBIS has taken place amidst calls for ongoing international engagement in the country, with reforms outlined in the Conakry Agreement, a four-year-old accord that has yet to be implemented. Rosine Sori-Coulibaly, Special Representative and Head of UNIOGBIS, warned the Security Council in August that entrenched political divisions in the country pose a serious threat to stability. Ms. Sori-Coulibaly also announced plans to establish a high-level platform that would bring together relevant international partners and national authorities to discuss, sustain momentum and accompany the country’s reform efforts under the continued leadership of the Resident Coordinator following the closure of the Office. UN News

Nigerian Activists Demand Release of Publisher, Former Presidential Aspirant Sowore

Human rights groups in Nigeria are threatening legal action after the arrest and detention of Sahara Reporters website founder and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore, who was picked up by police during a candlelight procession he organized against bad governance on New Year’s Eve. Activists at the procession who managed to avoid arrest say police arrived at the Abuja protest venue in seven vehicles and got rough as they rounded up Omoyele Sowore and several others. … Nigeria has grown worse in its ranking on human rights violations since the Buhari administration came to power in 2015, according to CIVICUS, a human rights activist group. Buhari promised Friday to listen more to critics this year during his New Year address to citizens. “Your voices have been heard and will continue to listen to you,” said Buhari. “These ongoing challenges will be faced head on with renewed determination and with all the appropriateness and urgency required.” Activists say Sowore’s arrest is a contradiction to the president’s New Year pledge. VOA

Bobi Wine Likens Uganda Election to ‘a War and a Battlefield’

Bobi Wine, the former reggae singer turned Ugandan opposition leader, has spoken about his country’s bitter and violent presidential election campaign as it moves into its final two weeks. “The campaign is crazy. It’s like a war and a battlefield,” Wine said in an interview conducted before he was detained for a third time in two months on Wednesday. “Every day, we are met with heavily armed military officers. It’s always teargas and grenades, live bullets and beatings,” the 38-year-old said in the town of Lyantonde, 112 miles (180km) from the capital, Kampala. “I am afraid and concerned every day. I fear for my life and the lives of my comrades in the struggle. The regime is after our lives. It’s after hurting and incapacitating us. Every day we live is as if it’s the last one.” … “This is a generational cause. I am a Ugandan that represents the pain, misery, aspirations and dreams of millions of Ugandans. What I am saying and representing is what millions of young people in the ghettoes, unemployed and those in universities want,” Wine said. The Guardian

Somalia’s Pirate Coast to Develop International Ports with Foreign Money

Today, Somalia’s once-lawless pirate towns are aiming for a more honest future – as freight ports. Three of the most notorious pirate havens – Hobyo, Eyl and Garacad – are all now earmarked for port construction projects, which will see them cater to the shipping trade they once preyed upon. It is hoped the ports will finally bring prosperity to the so-called “pirate coast,” which lies on one of the most remote and impoverished parts of Somalia. “With this project, Somalia will firmly establish itself a key hub on the global maritime network,” said Abdisabir Shurie, the minister of ports and fisheries for Somalia’s Galmadug state, which is behind the Hobyo project. “The investment will create thousands of jobs for the Somali people and opportunities for businesses.” Telegraph