Africa Media Review for January 8, 2021

Niger’s Outgoing President Warns against ‘Fiddling’ with Constitution
“This is the first time in 60 years that there will be a transition from one democratically-elected president (in Niger) to another who is democratically elected,” Issoufou told AFP in an interview. “We are building a democratic tradition.” In the past year, Guinea and Ivory Coast have been shaken by violence after presidents oversaw constitution changes enabling them to seek extra time in office. Elections are also upcoming in Uganda and the Republic of Congo, where constitutional tweaks have helped veteran leaders stay in power. But Issoufou said he was firmly against such moves. “We can’t make strong institutions by fiddling with constitutions, by changing the rules of the game while it’s being played,” he said. “The adventure of a third term… would have weakened the institutions that we are building.” … Issoufou said jihadism in the Sahel posed a far wider threat and called for an “international coalition” to combat it. … “Security is a worldwide public good. What happens in the Sahel concerns the rest of the world.” AFP

Bobi Wine Confronted by Ugandan Police during Appeal for ICC Inquiry
Police in Uganda have confronted the presidential candidate Bobi Wine during an online press conference where he announced a petition to the international criminal court to investigate rights abuses in the country. During the meeting with journalists on Thursday evening, a week ahead of tense elections in Uganda, officers appeared to haul Wine from a vehicle while he pleaded: “I am not even allowed to park on the side of the road.” Wine said police fired live rounds and teargas and arrested his campaign team in the latest episode of an escalating crackdown on him and his team by state security forces ahead of the elections. … Hours after Wine announced his candidacy in November, he was arrested, and more than 50 people were shot dead by security forces in the protests that followed. Those deaths form a critical part of Wine’s petition to the ICC to investigate alleged acts of torture, mutilation and murder of civilian protesters. The petition by Wine and two other alleged torture victims mentions Museveni, the security minister Elly Tumwine, and other security officials. The Guardian

UN Hails New Libya Prisoner Swap under October Truce
The UN mission in Libya has welcomed a second exchange of prisoners between the country’s rival administrations and called for faster progress on other parts of an October truce. The formerly warring sides exchanged a total of 35 prisoners in the small southwestern town of Shwairif under the auspices of a Joint Military Commission (JMC) set up under the hard-won ceasefire, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said late Tuesday. The two sides completed a first prisoner swap in the same town late last month. “This second official exchange of detainees is the result of the steadfast commitment by the JMC to move forward with the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement,” the UN mission said. “In this spirit, UNSMIL calls on both parties to swiftly finalise ongoing negotiations to reopen the coastal road.” The main highway along Libya’s Mediterranean coast linking the capital Tripoli in the west with second city Benghazi in the east has long been severed by the front line between the opposing administrations. AFP

How Six Brothers – and Their Lions – Terrorised a Libyan Town
They were the family from hell. For years, until last summer, the Kani brothers held a small Libyan town in their murderous grip, massacring men, women and children to maintain their authority. Now their crimes are slowly being uncovered. For seven months, workers in white chemical protection suits have been returning to the small agricultural town of Tarhuna, about an hour’s drive south-east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. They have marked out neat rectangles with red-and-white tape, across the fields of reddish-brown earth, and from these plots they have lifted 120 dead bodies, though large areas still remain untouched. … Some appear to be the bodies of young fighters killed in battles around Tarhuna last summer, in the ninth year of Libya’s on-off civil war. But many are of civilians – including women, and children as young as five – some bearing signs of torture. The graves are the gruesome legacy of a reign of terror, lasting nearly eight years, imposed on the town by a local family, the Kanis, and the militia they created. BBC

UN Fears ‘Massive’ COVID Transmission in Ethiopia’s Tigray
The United Nations fears “massive community transmission” of COVID-19 in Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, fueled by displacement and the collapse of health services, as humanitarian workers finally begin to access the region two months after fighting began. Hospitals have been looted, even destroyed. A new U.N. report based on the first on-the-ground assessments confirms some of the grim concerns around Tigray’s some 6 million people since the conflict erupted Nov. 4 between Ethiopian forces and those of the Tigray region. The crisis has threatened to destabilize one of Africa’s most powerful and populous countries and pull in neighbors like Sudan. Tigray leaders dominated Ethiopia’s government for nearly three decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power and sidelined them amid sweeping reforms that won him the Nobel Peace Prize. Abiy has rejected international “interference” in the conflict even as the U.N. and others pleaded for weeks for unhindered access to Tigray as food, medicines and other supplies ran out. Now COVID-19 has emerged as the latest source of alarm. AP

‘We Can’t Cope’: Lesotho Faces COVID-19 Disaster after Quarantine Failures
A Covid-19 disaster is threatening the small southern African kingdom of Lesotho after revelations that the government released people who had tested positive for the virus from quarantine early. Government sources this week said they had been sending Covid-19 patients home from as far back as last June over cost concerns. It comes as the country, the last in Africa to record a case of the virus, recorded a sharp rise in cases in recent weeks after high numbers of workers travelled home from South Africa for the Christmas holidays. According to the latest figures from the National Covid-19 Secretariat (Nacosec), Lesotho had 4,137 cases as of Wednesday, up from 2,137 on 1 December. The country has a population of about 2 million. … Nacosec risk communications manager Baroane Phenethi said new quarantine facilities were now being identified. “We never anticipated a surge. We are trying to identify quarantine facilities for those who are asymptomatic. Those who are visibly sick would be sent to hospitals,” Phenethi said. He warned of more deaths in the coming weeks. The Guardian

Kenya Says 1st Astrazeneca Vaccine Doses to Come Next Month
Kenya’s health minister says the country is expected to start receiving 24 million doses next month of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, as countries in sub-Saharan Africa begin to announce progress in obtaining the desperately needed vaccines. Mutahi Kagwe on Wednesday said health workers and teachers will have priority for vaccinations in East Africa’s economic hub and that the shots will be voluntary. The doses are being obtained through the COVAX facility meant to ensure vaccines for lower-income countries, Dr. Patrick Amoth, director general of public health, told The Associated Press. Kenya has been participating in a small-scale trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which requires two doses administered weeks apart. The vaccine can be stored at what AstraZeneca has called “normal refrigerated conditions,” which is expected to help in parts of the African continent where poor infrastructure will challenge the mass rollout of doses. AP

About 8 in 10 Africans Will Accept Vaccine, Says Africa CDC Study
At least eight in 10 people would take a Covid-19 vaccine if it was publicly available and deemed safe and effective, a survey carried out in several African countries shows. Overall, willingness, or not, to take the vaccine depended mostly on trust as well as perceptions of its importance, safety, and efficacy, according to a survey by the study by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Orb international. According to Vaccine Confidence Project, safety was of utmost consideration; on average 18 percent of Africans believe vaccines generally are not safe and 25 percent think that a Covid-19 vaccine would be unsafe. From the survey carried out in 15 African countries, men, young people, and people who believe that the threat from Covid-19 is exaggerated are more likely to believe in disinformation compared with the rest of the population. Those who would not take the vaccine cited safety as a leading concern. The EastAfrican

Guterres ‘Shocked’ at Massacre of Civilians in Eastern DR Congo
At least 25 villagers are reported to have been killed in recent attacks attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia in the villages of Tingwe, Mwenda and Nzenga, near Beni territory, in North Kivu province. In a statement issued by his spokesperson on Wednesday, Secretary-General António Guterres “strongly condemned the violence against the civilian population and calls for the perpetrators of these atrocities to be swiftly brought to justice.” Mr. Guterres reiterated his call for a global ceasefire and urged all armed groups to lay down their weapons. The UN chief also urged the DRC authorities to take concrete steps to address the drivers of conflict in the east of the country. He also stressed the determination of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (known by its French acronym, MONUSCO) “to continue to do its utmost to ensure the protection of civilians in accordance with its mandate and to support national efforts to consolidate peace and stability in the country.” UN News

France Seeks Strategy Change to Reduce Troops in West Africa
President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce a timeframe for the evolution of France’s largest international military operation at a summit in Chad’s capital N’Djamena next month. … French troops have been present in Mali since 2013 when they intervened to force Islamic extremist rebels from power. The operation, called Barkhane, was then expanded to include Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania to improve security and stability in the broader Sahel region. Defense Minister Florence Parly said France will “very likely” reduce its 5,100 troops in the Sahel region, in an interview to Le Parisien newspaper earlier this week. No specific figures have been released. … Next month’s N’Djamena summit is set to reassess the situation a year after a meeting in the French town of Pau led to France sending 600 additional troops and concentrating military efforts along the porous border separating Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Parly stressed that “any reinforcement, by definition, is temporary.” AP

Central African Republic: A Disputed Election and a Strange Rebel Alliance
After an election marred by violence, the president of the Central African Republic (CAR) has won five more years in power. But his victory is contested and the fate of the country balances on a knife edge. A disparate jumble of armed groups formed an alliance last month and launched an offensive in a bid to disrupt this crucial vote. Since the election, fighting has continued in towns nationwide, with the rebels threatening to march on the capital, Bangui. So far, they have been kept away by United Nations peacekeepers, CAR’s armed forces and hundreds of reinforcements from Russia and Rwanda. The political opposition has said Faustin-Archange Touadéra’s victory lacks legitimacy and are demanding a re-run. While voters turned out in force in Bangui and some other towns, militants launched a violent and disruptive campaign of intimidation elsewhere – burning ballot boxes, ransacking polling stations and preventing the vote in over 40% of electoral districts in this chronically unstable country. BBC

Ghana Set for First Sub-Saharan African LNG-to-Power Project
Ghana is set to open sub-Saharan Africa’s first liquefied natural gas-to-power project as it moves to position itself as a hub for the cleaner and cheaper fuel in the region. LNG-to-power projects have been booming from Asian to Latin American in recent years as they allow nations to switch from dirtier fossil fuels to keep the lights on. And for sellers, integrated LNG-to-power provides a guaranteed outlet for the fuel. Tema LNG Terminal Co. received the floating regasification unit from Jiangnan, China on Wednesday, paving the way for the supply of 1.7 million tons of natural gas per year for power generation sometime this quarter, Edmund Agyeman-Duah, project manager at the company, said. The company, backed by Helios Investment Partners and Africa Infrastructure Investment Managers, began building the $350 million project about two years ago. Bloomberg

S. Africa’s Plan to Record All Babies’ Biometrics Raises Privacy Fears
Plans to photograph and fingerprint every baby born in South Africa for a digital register could lead to data leaks and identity theft without robust safeguards, rights experts said on Thursday. The Department of Home Affairs’ new draft policy aims to capture detailed biometrics – unique physical traits – of every child born in South Africa and link this data to parents’ identity numbers, which are printed on all ID documents. The government hopes the new registration system will prevent corrupt officials selling birth certificates to foreigners to illegally secure South African citizenship and protect children who otherwise risk going undocumented. … “Governments need to have digital registers of their population to deliver services,” said Joseph Atick, executive chairman of ID4Africa, a charity that promotes digital identification – or online identity records – across Africa. “(But) the threat to privacy is real. That is why we promote the development of data protection and privacy laws and frameworks before embracing digital identity,” Atick told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments. Reuters

Senegal Reports h5n1 Bird Flu Outbreak on Poultry Farm
Senegal has reported an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu on a poultry farm, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Thursday. The outbreak, which occurred in the Thies region east of the capital Dakar, has killed 58,000 birds in the 100,000-strong flock, with the remaining animals culled, the OIE said, citing a report from Senegal’s veterinary services. Humans can occasionally contract H5N1 avian influenza but transmission from an infected person to another is difficult. When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Infection in people is mostly associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments. Reuters

East Africa Sets up Site to Track, Fight Wildlife Crimes
East African countries have set up a microsite to track wildlife trafficking and affiliated crimes in the region and will also collaborate in supporting the enforcement and prosecution of wildlife crimes. The microsite set up by the East Africa Association of Prosecutors (EAAP) will promote co-operation on transnational wildlife crimes, data sharing, bilateral agreements, mutual legal assistance, harmonisation of laws, procedures and penalties. The platform was developed with support from the United States Agency for International Development funded project Conserving Natural Capital and Enhancing Collaborative Management of Transboundary Resources in East Africa (Connect). It was created in response to the objectives established under the East Africa Community regional strategy to combat poaching, illegal trade and trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products. … “Facilitating regular communication between prosecutors will help to disrupt transnational smuggling networks while ensuring smooth and timely communication between nations when dealing with transnational wildlife smuggling networks,” said Julie Thomson, Traffic’s East Africa programme office director. The EastAfrican

Can Basketball Heal South Sudan?
The people of South Sudan are among the tallest in the world. That helps explain why several of them have had stellar careers playing basketball abroad. One is Luol Deng, a former all-star in America’s National Basketball Association (nba). Mr Deng, who retired in 2019 after 15 seasons on the hardwood for the Chicago Bulls and other teams in the nba, took over as coach of South Sudan’s national team in November. Now he is using the sport to try to mend his war-torn motherland. In December, for the first time in its history, South Sudan won enough games to qualify for the African basketball championship, known as AfroBasket. That is no small feat for a team that is relatively new to international competition. For five of the ten years that South Sudan has existed as a country, it has been beset by civil war. Of its 12-member squad, all but one player grew up abroad. The Economist



Photo: Adam Jones