Africa Media Review for July 1, 2021

Eight Killed, Dozens Injured and Detained as Protests Continue in eSwatini, Say Activists
Protesters in eSwatini defied a curfew Wednesday, taking to the streets in what activists say is a tipping point in Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Activists say eight people were killed in Manzini alone, with 28 critically injured. The internet has also reportedly been shut down. News24 could not reach the government of eSwatini for comment. Protesters say the eSwatini government is using Covid-19 regulations to crack down on public demonstrations. Soldiers and military are patrolling the streets to enforce the regulations, and enforcing roadblocks. Unverified mobile phone footage shows soldiers harassing people out on the streets during the day. In the country’s townships and rural areas, soldiers have reportedly been going from house to house, dragging young people out of their homes and beating them. … Pro-democracy opposition movement Pudemo said 47 protesters were detained by security officers. … The protests in eSwatini are rooted in the “Kungahlwa Kwenile” campaign, started online and via WhatsApp by leaders who want to remain anonymous. News24

Ethiopia’s Tigray ‘Extremely Fluid’ as Cease-Fire in Doubt
Ethiopia’s government on Wednesday said its military could re-enter the capital of its embattled Tigray region within weeks, calling into question the unilateral cease-fire it declared in Tigray just days ago. Ethiopia also asserted that soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, who had been collaborating with Ethiopian forces, had withdrawn from Tigray. That could not immediately be confirmed and Eritrean officials did not respond to questions, but the withdrawal would be another major development in the nearly eight-month war. Redwan Hussein, spokesman for the Tigray emergency task force, spoke to reporters in Ethiopia’s first public remarks since its soldiers retreated from the Tigray capital and other parts of the region on Monday in a dramatic turn in the fighting. The Tigray forces that have retaken key areas after some of the war’s fiercest fighting have rejected the cease-fire, telling The Associated Press it was a “sick joke’ and vowing to chase out Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. … The United States on Tuesday said it had not yet seen a statement from Eritrea saying it was committed to the cease-fire. AP

Terrorists More Innovative in World Shaken by Coronavirus – UN
UN counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov has warned that terrorists are becoming increasingly innovative in a world shaken by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in spite of “significant progress” in the fight against terror. Voronkov, head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT), concluded the Second High-level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism on Wednesday at the UN headquarters in New York by summing up four of the strategic challenges facing the world at the moment. He underscored the need for “inclusive, forward-looking, evidence-based approaches to build resilience” in the face of the ISIL legacy in Iraq and Syria; terrorist threats in Africa; tackling transnational risks sparked by various forms of intolerance; and the need to upgrade technology and know-how to counter the scourge. “Deliberations over the last few days have advanced the Secretary-General’s vision to promote a networked global counter-terrorism response,’’ Voronkov said. However, he added, “while preparing for tomorrow’s threats; we also need to change traditional tactics.” He noted that hate speech had become pervasive and self-reinforcing through algorithms and online echo chambers. NAN

Understaffed Tunisian Hospital Battles Coronavirus Spike
Over the past month, confirmed virus infections in Tunisia have reached the highest daily levels since the pandemic began, but the vaccination rate remains low, according to data from John’s Hopkins University. Tunisia has reported Africa’s highest per-capita death toll from the pandemic, and is currently recording one of the highest per-capita infection rates in Africa, the data indicates. The Kairouan region is living through “a real horror movie,” Mohamed Rouis, the regional health director in Kairouan, was quoted saying in Tunisian media earlier this month. A temporary hospital has been set up on the outskirts of the city. The army has also bolstered that with a military care facility under a green tent which houses a line of beds with monitoring equipment and respirators. Despite the dire situation, there is no widespread testing for COVID-19 in the poor, rural region. … Facing an “alarming” growth in infections, the Tunisian government on Tuesday extended an overnight curfew and ordered stepped-up vaccination efforts in rural areas. AP

How South Africa’s Courts Stood up to Jacob Zuma
When Nelson Mandela inaugurated the court that guards South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution in 1995, he warned that it would be tested not only by “direct assaults” but also “insidious corrosion.” “The highest and the most humble in the land all, without exception, owe allegiance to the same document, the same principles,” and the court would have a lofty but also lonely task to ensure that they did, Mandela said. Nearly 30 years later, the black, green and red robed justices of the South African constitutional court are widely regarded as having passed Mandela’s test. This week, they quoted Mandela’s words as they sentenced Jacob Zuma, the former president who dismissed them as “a few lawless judges”, to 15 months in jail for defying their order to attend an inquiry into corruption. The sentence astonished South Africans who had long thought that the culture of impunity in the ruling African National Congress would never end even under Zuma’s successor, Cyril Ramaphosa. The judgment confirmed the status of the 11-member constitutional court and the judiciary as a bulwark of democracy. FT

South Africa’s Top Court Clears Ramaphosa on Campaign Funding
South Africa’s Constitutional Court cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of allegations by the country’s corruption watchdog that he misled lawmakers over campaign-finance donations. Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane erred when she found that Ramaphosa deceived parliament about a payment to his 2017 campaign to win control of the ruling party, Judge Chris Jafta said on Thursday. Ramaphosa’s victory in that campaign ultimately led to him becoming the nation’s president. “The Public Protector was wrong on the facts and the law with regard to the finding that the president misled parliament,” Jafta said in a ruling in Johannesburg. … The top court’s ruling came two days after it sentenced Ramaphosa’s predecessor, Jacob Zuma, to 15 months in prison for defying its order to testify before a graft inquiry. Mkhwebane has been seen to be a Zuma ally, and parliament is considering whether to remove her on grounds of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence. Bloomberg

EU Agrees Military Training Mission for Mozambique
EU ambassadors on Wednesday gave the green light to setting up a military mission in Mozambique to help train its armed forces battling jihadists in the north of the country, diplomats said. A deadly insurgency by militants linked to the Islamic State group has ravaged the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province since late 2017, claiming some 3,000 lives and displacing 800,000 people. Former colonial master Portugal is already providing training for Mozambican troops — and Lisbon’s military instructors on the ground will make up some half of the new EU mission. A senior European diplomat said that other countries including France, Italy, and Spain are expected to provide personnel for the mission. Foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc are due to formally sign off on the mission at a meeting on July 12. The approval of the EU training mission comes as regional powers are also looking to bolster their support for Mozambique’s fight to crush the insurgency. Last week the 16 southern African countries in the SADC bloc approved the deployment of forces as Mozambique’s government said it was open to foreign boots on the ground to battle the jihadists. The Defense Post with AFP

At Least 10 Killed in Overnight Attack on Eastern Congo City of Beni
At least 10 people were killed overnight in a raid on the city of Beni in eastern Congo, witnesses said, and a civil society group and a monitoring body said Islamist militants were suspected of being behind the attack. Residents said a group of attackers had set several houses on fire in the middle of the night in the city’s Beu district, firing upon people as they exited the buildings and attacking some with machetes. The raid took place just four days after the city, home to thousands of displaced people who fled surrounding areas because of violence, was hit by two blasts, which officials also blamed on the Islamists. Hundreds of people took to Beni’s streets on Thursday morning to protest against the government’s failure to protect the city. Some people built makeshift barricades while others burned tyres. … Gloire Kivetya, president of a body representing civil society groups in Beni’s Beu district, blamed the attack on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist militant group that claims links to Islamic State. The Kivu Security Tracker, also said the ADF was suspected. Reuters

U.S. Calls on Russia to Stop Central Africa Violence
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations called on Russia on Wednesday to stop violence by “mercenaries working as an arm of Russia’s Ministry of Defense” in the Central African Republic (CAR) and hold accountable those responsible. U.N. sanctions monitors reported to the Security Council that Russian military instructors and CAR troops targeted civilians with excessive force, indiscriminate killings, occupation of schools and large-scale looting. Russia has sent hundreds of military instructors to arm and train government troops against rebels in the gold- and diamond-rich country of 4.7 million. … “Russia must immediately stop the violence, hold those responsible accountable, and remove mercenaries endangering U.N. peacekeepers and undermining their crucial work in support of peace and security in the CAR,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement. Reuters

Rebels Launch Deadly Attacks on Army Positions in the Central African Republic
Rebels killed seven people in coordinated attacks on army positions in the east of the Central African Republic, the UN peacekeeping force in the conflict-ridden country said Wednesday. The fighters of the Unity for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) rebel group mounted simultaneous attacks on army “checkpoints and camps” in the eastern city of Alindao, MUNISCA spokesman Abdoulaziz Fall told AFP, adding that the “clashes left seven dead.” The peacekeepers forced back the rebels, who fell back three kilometres (two miles) from the two, Fall added. “Currently the Central African armed forces are in place in the city with us,” he said. Around 60 Nepalese peacekeepers had been sent to the city as reinforcements, he added. The UPC is one of the largest and best equipped rebel groups operating in the country, its members controlling many operating mines. It mainly operates in the east of the country. AFP

Burkina Faso President Takes on Defence Role amid Security Crisis
Burkina Faso’s president Roch Kabore has taken over the role of defence minister in a cabinet reshuffle aimed at stopping a wave of jihadist attacks that has plagued the West Africa country in recent years, according to a presidential decree on Wednesday. Groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State originally based in neighbouring Mali have embedded themselves across north and eastern Burkina Faso, launching regular attacks on civilians, including one this month that killed more than 130 people, the worst in years. Pressure has increased on Kabore to win back control and end a humanitarian crisis in which more than 1 million people have been displaced by violence. Leading opposition politicians have demanded the resignation of the government and called for a demonstration this weekend against what they say is the government’s inability to deal with the crisis. Kabore will oversee the defence ministry with help from Colonel Major Aimé Simpore, replacing Cheriff Sy who was in the post since January 2019, according to the decree read on national television. Simpore had previously helped run national security policy. Reuters

What Does End of France’s Barkhane Mission Mean for Burkina Faso?
Earlier this month, Macron suspended joint operations between French and Malian soldiers in response to a military coup in Bamako, the second in nine months.Analysts say it is still unclear exactly what the end of Operation Barkhane means, however. While it could simply be a rebranding exercise on the part of the French, it could lead to changes that are much more profound. “There are more questions than answers at this point,” says Judd Devermont, director of the Africa programme for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a United States-based think-tank. “France’s footprint will shrink, but it will remain engaged with, and through its Sahelian partners as part of the G5 Sahel Joint Force or European partners, under the auspices of Operation Takuba.” The leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger created the G5 Sahel force in 2014 to help tackle a number of challenges, including the growing threat of armed groups. France, meanwhile, is hoping that Takuba, which is supposed to bring together troops from the European Union to provide security in the Sahel, will fill gaps left as it pulls out of the region. Al Jazeera

Somalia Opposition Welcomes Election Plan, but Security Threats Remain
Somalia’s opposition politicians and the public have welcomed a deal to hold delayed indirect presidential elections in October, with lawmakers chosen in July and August.  But analysts note unrest and terrorist attacks are still a risk. Somalia’s opposition politicians welcomed the new election schedule reached Tuesday in Mogadishu after a meeting of federal and state leaders. Lawmaker Mohamed Hassan Idris said the opposition was looking forward to a quick implementation to avoid further delays and unrest. “So far, we have no concerns,” Hassan said. “It is on a very welcoming stage; the schedule has been agreed by the leaders and the electoral committees, both from the federal and member states levels.” He said leaders would need to continue discussions, “and we hope they continue to solve any likely obstacles.” VOA

Trial of LRA Commander Ongwen Still Divides Northern Uganda
In May this year, the International Criminal Court sentenced Dominic Ongwen, a former senior commander of Uganda’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army, to 25 years in prison on more than 60 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ongwen’s conviction was a landmark. It was the first ICC prosecution of a member of the indiscriminately brutal LRA, and the first time forced pregnancy was ruled as a war crime by an international court. But for the survivors of the group’s three decades of rampaging violence, there are still many layers of unresolved trauma to sort through, and a still-pending issue around reparations, which can help rebuild their lives. … To explore what part, if any, the ICC’s six-year trial process has played in reconciliation in northern Uganda, The New Humanitarian spoke to survivors of LRA massacres, peacebuilding groups, and Ongwen’s wives – who were abducted as girls and have now returned to live in a community still scarred by the insurgency. … A powerful sentiment, expressed again and again, was that Ongwen had been unfairly singled out: that other equally murderous LRA commanders had been granted amnesty by the Ugandan government, and that members of the security forces – also accused of rights violations – had escaped prosecution entirely. The New Humanitarian

Nigerian Parliament Set to Vote on Petroleum Overhaul Bill
A long-awaited bill to overhaul nearly every aspect of oil and gas production in Nigeria has been presented in both chambers of parliament, which could vote on the package as early as today, members of parliament told Reuters. Legislators have been hashing out details of the bill since President Muhammadu Buhari presented an initial version in September last year. The chambers are expected to begin voting on the bill on a clause-by-clause basis on Thursday, a process that could take some time for a technical presentation that is more than 400 pages long. The key remaining controversies relate to the share of wealth for communities in areas where petroleum it is produced, and communities in the northern and central parts of Nigeria where there is exploration but no production yet. A copy of the technical report submitted to parliament and seen by Reuters proposed the share the regional oil wealth that host communities can claim would increase from 2.5% to 5%. They had pushed for a 10% share. Reuters

Nnamdi Kanu: UK Demands Answers from Nigeria over His Arrest
The UK government is seeking clarification on circumstances under which the Nigerian government extradited Nnamdi Kanu, a dual national of both countries, over crimes related to his secessionist movement. Mr Kanu, who the Nigerian government labelled as a fugitive for being the leader of the proscribed organisation Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), was brought to Court in Nigeria on Wednesday after officials claimed they had arrested him in London, UK. However, the British government has denied that the 53-year-old Kanu was arrested or extradited from the UK. … Amidst speculations that Kanu was arrested in UK, Ethiopia, and Brazil, his younger brother, Mr Kingsley Kanu, on Wednesday night claimed that his brother was arrested in Kenya. … The IPOB is a proscribed organisation in Nigeria but has since 2014 been fighting for the actualisation of the sovereign state of Biafra, whose dream in the 1960s had caused a deadly civil war in the country. … Kanu, who also founded a militia group, Eastern Security Network (ESN), fled to London in 2017 after jumping bail while standing trial for treason and was re-arrested and brought back to Nigeria on June 26, 2021 and arraigned before the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 29, 2021. The EastAfrican

Nigeria: The Fall of the Billionaire Gucci Master
Authorities say Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi, perfected a simple internet scam and laundered millions of dollars. His past says a lot about digital swagger, and the kinds of stories that get told online. … A typical @hushpuppi post on Instagram, where he had more than 2 million followers, featured Abbas smiling in front of one of his Ferraris or Rolls-Royces, kicking back in his seat on a private jet, or exiting a designer store with a passel of rope-handled bags—#Hermes, #Fendi, #LouisVuitton. … Even back in 2019, there were questions about how much money Abbas really had and how exactly he’d acquired it. In Nigeria, where he was born, his Instagram presence had turned him into a celebrity adjacent to the biggest names in pop culture. He’d appeared on social media with pop idols Davido and WizKid and soccer players on English clubs like Chelsea and Man City. But Abbas’s wealth was the constant subject of rumors. In the flourishing ecosystem of Nigerian gossip blogs he was “a Nigerian big boy,” shorthand for an online fraudster, or “Yahoo Boy,” who’d struck it rich and showed it off. Abbas dismissed the talk as the jealousy of so many haters, disappointed with their own lives and determined to bring down a self-made man who’d left them all behind. Bloomberg

Sudan Takes over Security Services After Peacekeeping Forces Leave Darfur
Sudan on Wednesday started testing its ability to provide security and other services to regions initially engulfed in war, after the peacekeeping forces from the AU and the UN officially left the country. June 30 was the last day for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (Unamid) to complete the phase-out in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2559 (2020) which terminated the mandate of the Mission in December 2020. Deployed in 2007, Unamid was charged with bringing peace to a region where conflict had broken out a few years earlier after local armed groups rose against the government of Omar al-Bashir whom it accused of oppression. Bashir has since been ousted and is in jail for corruption, but the conflict in Darfur is said to have left 300,000 dead and another three million displaced, according to UN estimates. Unamid’s departure means Khartoum, which has worked to reconcile with various armed groups, will now be in charge of overall security for the country, for the first time in 15 years. The EastAfrican

Art on the Front Lines of a Changing Sudan
On the exterior wall of Khartoum’s morgue, a peach-coloured building attached to a hospital, a spray-painted corpse-hand with green fingernails emerges from the ground. On one of the fingers is a tag with the word “missing” – a reminder of the 200 bodies that remain inside, most of them unidentified protesters shot during the 2019 revolution. The whiff of decomposing bodies lingers on the street, the result of persistent power cuts which cause the refrigerators inside to turn off daily. Next to the painting of the hand, the word “anger” is written in Arabic. The mural is just one of hundreds that have emerged on walls across Sudan’s capital in the two years since the revolution. Most depict martyrs, politicians, Nubian queens, and the crimes of the former regime of Omar al-Bashir. What started out as protests against rising food and fuel costs in December 2018, turned into a coup d’etat by April 2019. The eight-month-long protests included sit-ins, boycotts, a “millions march,” and the removal of al-Bashir after 30 years in power. Sudan then saw the establishment of a joint civilian and military government, known as the Sovereign Council, to lead a 39-month transition to democracy. Throughout the revolution, and since, artists have helped capture the dissatisfaction of ordinary people. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones