Africa Media Review for January 7, 2021

Vaccines to Cost S. Africa $1.4 Billion in Long-Awaited Plan
South Africa laid out a long-awaited plan to distribute coronavirus vaccines, saying it will cost 20.6 billion rand ($1.4 billion) to inoculate two-thirds of the population and the state will be the sole purchaser. The government will agree to contracts with suppliers and allocate vaccines to regional authorities and the private sector, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a presentation to parliament on Thursday. The majority will come from AstraZeneca Plc, which has set a price of 54 rand each, compared with Moderna Inc’s 536 rand, he said. The country will receive 1 million doses this month from The Serum Institute of India Ltd., which is producing the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, Mkhize said in a later statement. A further 500,000 will follow in February and be used to inoculate health workers. … Mkhize said about 67% of the population should be inoculated by the end of the year. The National Treasury will put up the majority of the cost, though the government will also look to raise funds and ask medical-insurance providers to contribute, he told lawmakers. Bloomberg

Ghana Army Steps in to Quell Parliament Clash Ahead of Swearing-In
Ghanaian soldiers intervened in parliament to quell a clash between opposing parties in chaotic scenes overnight ahead of the body’s swearing-in on Thursday. Mayhem erupted after a lawmaker from the ruling party tried to seize the ballot box during the vote for parliament speaker. The ensuing clash lasted several hours until the army moved in, with national television broadcasting the drama live. “There was total breakdown of law and order,” said MP-elect Kwame Twumasi Ampofo of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). “Looking at a member of parliament and a minister of state snatching ballot papers… was so shameful.” The new parliament is split down the middle between the two main parties, posing the risk of gridlock on tackling Ghana’s problems. President Nana Akufo-Addo, who narrowly won re-election in the December 7 vote for the legislature and head of state, will also be sworn in on Thursday. AFP

In Africa’s Sahel Region, Violence and Hope Compete
Recent violence in Mali, Niger and the Central African Republic have left hundreds dead in recent weeks. But the United States’ envoy to the Sahel region says there is hope in the West African region, as several nations have recently held peaceful polls, with more elections to come in 2021. The top U.S. envoy to Africa’s Sahel region acknowledges that it has been a rough few weeks in the sprawling desert region — which covers the West African nations of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Peter Pham, the U.S. special envoy to the Sahel, strongly condemned the [January 2 Niger] attacks in a call to journalists this week, calling the perpetrators “cowardly” and “godless.” But he quickly added there is cause for hope, as Niger heads to a second round of presidential elections in February. “We have congratulated the people of Niger who exercised their democratic right to vote in their presidential and legislative elections on December 27th and look forward to observing an equally successful run-off presidential election process on February 21st. These elections hold the promise of Niger’s historic first peaceful transition of power from one democratically elected president to another,” he said. VOA

Air Force Secretary Barrett Visits Niger, Nigeria
Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett visited Niger and Nigeria Jan. 4-5 to increase USAF cooperation with the two countries, including deliveries of new aircraft. On Jan. 4, Barrett visited Niger, where USAF has operating bases, to participate in a ceremony for the delivery of the country’s first C-130. Since 2015, the U.S. military has provided more than $30 million to develop the Nigerien Air Force’s C-130 program, including training, spare parts, infrastructure, fuel and support equipment, according to a U.S. Embassy release. The delivery of the aircraft makes Niger the 70th country to fly the C-130. “Standing shoulder to shoulder, the U.S. and Nigerien forces have united to advance mutual security and trust. We deeply appreciate the many ways our nations work together,” Barrett said in the release. “Today’s ceremonial delivery of Niger’s new C-130 is an important milestone in furthering our robust partnership and the interoperability of our air forces.” Air Force Magazine

Security Council Has Critical Role in Addressing Fragility and Conflict: UN Chief
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has underlined the critical role of the Security Council in addressing links between fragility and conflict, two of the greatest obstacles to achieving sustainable development across the world. … The linkages between conflict and fragility have been particularly visible in Africa, including in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, the Secretary-General continued. Climate change, terrorism, transnational organized crime and the proliferation of armed groups have only worsened the situation. Last Saturday, gunmen killed more than 100 villagers in western Niger, which the UN strongly condemned. The country’s President, Mahamadou Issoufou, was among leaders participating in the virtual meeting. “The international community must mobilize to help the countries in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin to move on from this fragile context, the primary victims of which are women and children,” President Issoufou said in French. He expressed hope that these regions will figure prominently in the Security Council’s agenda. UN News

Ethiopian General Admits Eritrean Troops Entered Tigray
A top-ranking member of Ethiopia’s army confirmed that troops from neighbouring Eritrea entered the northern Tigray region during the conflict there, in a video seen by AFP on Wednesday. Ethiopia’s federal government has long denied persistent claims that Eritrean troops were in Tigray, where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive against dissident regional leaders in November that left thousands dead. But Major General Belay Seyoum, the head of the Ethiopian army’s northern division, went against those denials in a video dated from the end of December that emerged on social media Wednesday. “An unwanted foreign force entered into our territory” during the fighting in Tigray, he said in the video, in which he spoke with residents of the regional capital Mekele. … Tigray residents also told AFP that Eritrean troops were in the region, accusing them of various abuses and looting. AFP

Sudan Says It Signs Pact on Normalizing Ties with Israel
Sudan on Wednesday said it had signed an agreement with the United States that paves the way for the cash-strapped African nation to normalize relations with Israel and help clear some of its massive debt to the World Bank. Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the deal with visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to the prime minister’s office. … Also during Mnuchin’s visit, the U.S. and Sudan signed a “memorandum of understanding” to facilitate the payment of the African country’s debt to the World Bank, the Finance Ministry said, a move widely seen as a key step toward its economic recovery. … Mnuchin’s visit came amid rising tensions between military and civilian members of the transitional government. Those tensions, which resurfaced in recent weeks, have largely centered on the military’s economic assets, over which the civilian-run Finance Ministry does not have control. AP

At Least 17 Dead after Clashes in Sudan’s White Nile State
The death toll from the clashes in the White Nile state has risen. The clashes that erupted on Sunday between local residents and South Sudanese militiamen in the border area of El Mogeines have now left 17 dead and more than 20 injured. Two more people were killed and another wounded on Wednesday, a resident told Radio Dabanga from El Mogeines. “A group of armed men opened fire at farmers while they were working on their land. A woman named Halima was killed instantly. Hawa and El Zein Abu Koura were seriously injured. El Zein died not much later” the resident explained. He further explained that these victims are seasonal workers belonging to the El Seleem Belel tribe living in the area of Kilo 10, east of El Mogeines. Another resident reported that the total death toll from the violent incidents between Sunday and Wednesday has now reached 17, including two women, while the number of injured exceeds 20. Radio Dabanga

South Sudanese Religious Leaders Hold Talks Aimed at Ending Intercommunal Fighting
With an eye toward ending intercommunal violence that killed dozens of people last month in Central Equatoria state, South Sudanese religious leaders and civil society activists have organized direct peace and reconciliation talks between various communities. Some meetings already have taken place in rural villages of Terekeka County and included chiefs, women, youth, farmers, and cattle camp leaders. Paul Ygugusuk, archbishop of the Central Equatoria province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, blames a lack of clear laws on the movement of cattle and justice for victims of cattle raids for the increased violence in certain areas, particularly in Terekeka and Lainya counties. “The problem of Terekeka is that all previous resolutions have not been implemented, stolen cattle have not been returned; as such people take the law into their own hands,” Yugusuk told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus. Cattle raids are a chronic problem in parts of South Sudan, separate from the civil war that killed tens of thousands between 2013 and 2017. VOA

Bomb Kills Four Soldiers, One Civilian in Cameroon
Four soldiers and a civilian were killed Wednesday when an official convoy was hit by makeshift explosives in a restive English-speaking region of Cameroon, the government said. A government spokesman blamed “separatist terrorists” for the killings in the Northwest province, where Anglophone separatists are fighting for independence. The official whose convoy was apparently targeted was unhurt, spokesman Rene Emmanuel Sadi said in a statement. Three other people were wounded in the attack, which occurred just before 1 am local (0000 GMT) near the town of Mbengwi. The convoy comprising the local prefect and other officials was on the way back from a ceremony when it was “ambushed by separatists armed with makeshift explosives,” Sadi said. The Defense Post with AFP

What’s Next after Violent Elections in Central African Republic?
The capture of Bangassou by the rebels of the “Coalition of Patriots for Change” (CPC) has put the spotlight back on the violence in the Central African Republic. “Our forces were totally outnumbered by the rebels and had to take refuge in a base of the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA,” said Central African government spokesman Ange Maxime Kazagui in a DW interview, describing the situation in the town, which is located about 750 kilometers (466 miles) from the capital Bangui. Thousands of residents reportedly fled from the attackers across the nearby border into the neighboring Republic of Congo. Several citizens, security forces, and soldiers from the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA have been killed. Besides, there were numerous wounded, the spokesman added. The government and MINUSCA accuse former President Francois Bozize of supporting the rebel alliance, allegations Bozize has denied. DW

Protests Erupt in Senegal Capital over Virus Curfew
Youths protesting a coronavirus curfew fought with security forces in the Senegalese capital Dakar overnight Wednesday, burning tyres and erecting barricades as police fired tear gas, an AFP photographer reported. The main clashes were in the city’s Ngor district, while other incidents were reported in the Medina and Yoff areas and suburban Pikine, Guediawaye and Thiaroye. The violence erupted on the first night of a 9 pm-5 am curfew announced by President Macky Sall for Dakar and the adjoining region of Thies. Together, they account for nearly 90 percent of Senegal’s Covid-19 cases, according to health authorities. The government defended the curfew as it came into effect, saying the step was justified by “rampant growth in infections, severe cases… and the number of deaths.” Senegal imposed a first curfew in March after the first cases of Covid-19 emerged, a measure that prompted violent demonstrations. It was lifted in June. There then came a lull before a second wave struck in mid-November. AFP

Zimbabwe Authorities Selectively Enforce COVID Lockdown, Rights Groups Say
Human rights groups in Zimbabwe say the government is selectively enforcing COVID-19 lockdown rules. On Wednesday, a court handed down prison sentences to organizers of a New Year’s eve music event while a friend of the president who held his own party was untouched by police. When Zimbabwe’s government first imposed a lockdown to rein in the spread of COVID-19 last March, police used the lockdown as grounds for forcibly shutting down the meetings of opposition groups, while letting events of the ruling ZANU-PF party go ahead with no interference. A new 12-hour curfew went into effect this week and Musa Kika, executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, expressed concern that police are acting the same way. “So, we have a security apparatus [whose] modus [operandi], whose prime mode of control, is force. Force that is meted out against the requirements of our constitution and laws and against regional and international standards to which Zimbabwe is bound. So, we have policing that turn to disregard human rights. And it is just incorrect to believe that enforcement of public health measures should disregard individual or group rights,” Kika said. VOA

Uganda Opposition Forms Joint Tallying Centre for Jan 14 Poll
Opposition political parties and independent presidential candidates have agreed to form a joint tallying centre to compute results in the January 14 General Election. They, however, declined to reveal where the tally centre will be stationed or how it would work. The opposition forces are the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), National Unity Platform, Justice Forum (Jeema), Democratic Party, Alliance for National and Transformation, Lt Gen (retired) Henry Tumukunde’s Renewed Uganda platform and Dr Kizza Besigye’s People’s Government. In a joint statement issued Wednesday at Hotel Africana in Kampala, the opposition teams resolved to use technology and party structures to collect and relay results from polling stations across the country. … The chief convener and leader of the coalition, Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, condemned the heavy involvement of the army in politics. “You are holding Uganda in your hands and representing powerful forces to make Uganda progressive, comfortable and safe for all Ugandans now and in the future,” Dr Ssemogerere said. Daily Monitor

Corruption Gnawing at the Heart of South Africa’s Ruling ANC Party
The Secretary General of South Africa’s ruling ANC party, Ace Magashule, has been charged with multiple counts of fraud, money laundering and corruption. He is accused of embezzling tens of millions of euros during his time as the premier of Free State province. This is one of the biggest corruption scandals ever to involve the party of Nelson Mandela. Our South Africa correspondents visited Free State, one of the poorest provinces in the country, to better understand the allegations against Magashule. [Video] France24

Dwarf Giraffes Discovery Surprises Scientists
With an average height of roughly 16 feet, giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth. At about 6 feet long, their lanky legs and towering necks stand taller than most humans. Even the shortest giraffe is twice as tall as the average professional basketball player. So when Michael Brown, a conservation science fellow with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and colleagues came across a Nubian giraffe in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park in 2015 that was just 9 feet, 4 inches tall, they did a double-take. “The initial reaction was disbelief,” Dr. Brown said….the researchers could come up with only one explanation: dwarfism. Although scientists know very little about giraffes compared with other iconic animals, they do know that the towering mammals are in trouble. Habitat loss and poaching have reduced their numbers by an estimated 40 percent in the last 30 years, and some subspecies, including the Nubian giraffe, are now critically endangered. To combat this decline, Dr. Brown and other scientists have been surveying and monitoring as many wild giraffe populations as they can. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones