Africa Media Review for July 13, 2021

The Growing Complexity of Farmer-Herder Conflict in West and Central Africa
Farmer-herder violence in West and Central Africa has been rising steadily for the past decade, with especially steep increases since 2018. Overlapping with issues of ethnicity, culture, religion, and land, farmer-herder violence can quickly escalate into intercommunal conflict, something that violent extremist groups in the region have been actively fomenting. In the latest Africa Security Brief, Dr. Leif Brottem peels back the many layers of farmer-herder violence. Local government officials, traditional leaders, civil society groups, and security actors all have roles to play in mitigating this violence. To do so, however, they must support inclusive conflict resolution processes and resist conflating farmer-herder violence with that of militant Islamist groups, bandits, and organized criminal organizations. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

South Africa Deploys Army in Two Provinces to Quell Protests
The South African military said it was deploying soldiers in two provinces, including its economic hub of Johannesburg, to help police cope with looting and arson attacks on businesses in the wake of former President Jacob Zuma’s jailing. The move comes as the country’s top court began hearing a challenge on Monday by the former president against a 15-month prison term. … In a nationally televised address on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the deadly violence gripping the country’s two most densely populated provinces was unprecedented in post-apartheid South Africa. “Parts of the country are reeling from several days and nights of public violence, destruction of property and looting of the sort rarely seen before in the history of our democracy,” Ramaphosa said. Zuma, 79, was sentenced for defying a constitutional court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018. The decision to jail him resulted from legal proceedings seen as a test of South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, including against powerful politicians. … Some of the protests appear to have been triggered by Zuma’s detention, but they are also associated with grinding unemployment and hardship inflicted by a toughening of anti-COVID measures. Al Jazeera

UN: World Hunger Was Dramatically Worse in Pandemic Year
The United Nations on Monday lamented a “dramatic worsening” of world hunger last year, saying much of that is likely connected to the pandemic, and it urged billions of dollars to save millions of people from starving. A report issued jointly by five U.N. agencies said hunger outpaced population growth in 2020, with nearly 10% of all people estimated to be undernourished. It said the sharpest rise in hunger came in Africa, where 21% of the people — 282 million — are estimated to be undernourished. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the new “tragic data” shows that between 720 million and 811 million people in the world faced hunger last year — as many as 161 million more than in 2019. More than 2.3 billion people, which represents 30% of the global population, lacked year-round access to adequate food, according to the report. This indicator, known as the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity, leaped in one year as much as in the five previous years combined. … Emily Farr of the humanitarian organization Oxfam said the pandemic was the last straw for millions of people already battered by the impacts of conflict, economic shocks and a worsening climate crisis. AP

Aid Access to Tigray Remains Stalled, despite Ceasefire
Aid agencies say they’re baffled at the contradiction between the Ethiopian government’s stated commitment to let relief into the Tigray region following its recent ceasefire, and the lack of progress on humanitarian access they’re seeing on the ground. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared a unilateral ceasefire last month after pulling his troops back from the Tigrayan regional capital following eight months of fighting in the county’s rugged north against the rebel Tigray Defence Forces (TDF). … When the Ethiopian army quit Mekelle on 28 June, it left behind empty banks, looted shops, and frightened people. That same evening, electricity and telecommunications – controlled by the federal government – were also shut off. Three weeks later, the banks remain closed, cash is unavailable, and there’s a shortage of fuel, water, and food. Both road and air access to Tigray is difficult to impossible. The Ethiopian government insists it has authorised humanitarian flights from the capital, Addis Ababa, into Mekelle and the northern Tigray town of Shire, where large numbers of displaced people have also congregated. But for now, details are scarce, and organisations are still going through various administrative hurdles and technical assessments: Not one flight carrying supplies or passengers has been able to depart from the capital. The New Humanitarian

‘Purely Ethnic Profiling’: New Wave of Tigrayans Detained
Witnesses say thousands of Tigrayans are being detained and their businesses closed in cities across Ethiopia in a new wave of ethnic targeting by authorities over the eight-month conflict in the Tigray region. The detentions follow the dramatic turn in the war last month when resurgent Tigray forces marched into the regional capital, Mekele, as Ethiopian soldiers retreated and Ethiopia’s government announced a unilateral cease-fire. An earlier wave of detentions followed the start of the war in November after months of tensions between the government and Tigray’s leaders. … The governmental Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, however, said it is monitoring the detentions of Tigrayans and media workers suspected of links to the situation in Tigray. “Such measures aggravate the public’s concerns on the risk of ethnic profiling,” it said in a statement. A Tigrayan activist told the AP the detentions appear to be occurring in major cities across Ethiopia. … A letter from Tigrayan lawyers to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, obtained by the AP, said the fate of thousands of people remains unknown. And “hundreds of Tigrayan businesses in Addis Ababa, including restaurants, bars, cafes and other places, have been closed and sealed with no apparent reason than the claim of security concerns,” it reads. AP

Rebel Forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray Launch New Offensive
Tigrayan forces claimed Tuesday to have launched a new offensive in the conflict-torn northern region of Ethiopia, two weeks after the federal government declared a unilateral ceasefire in the face of rebel advances. A spokesman for the Tigrayan forces told AFP they had seized Alamata, the main town in southern Tigray, after launching the offensive on Monday. Getachew Reda said fighting was also taking place in western Tigray. The claims could not be independently confirmed because communications were largely down in the area, while an Ethiopian military spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Tigray Defence Forces last month swept across large parts of Tigray and seized the regional capital Mekele after eight months of brutal conflict with federal troops. The fighting — marked by grisly massacres and widespread sexual violence — has killed thousands of people, while the United Nations says hundreds of thousands are on the brink of famine. Security forces and officials from the neighbouring Amhara region had moved into both the southern and western areas of Tigray in November in support of the Ethiopian army, after Tigrayan forces cleared out during the early phase of the war. AFP

‘Information Blackout’: Nigerian Press Bodies Unite against Media Crackdown
Dozens of prominent Nigerian newspapers, as well as online and broadcast news platforms, have joined a protest against moves by the National Assembly to stifle press freedom. A nationwide stir was caused on Monday, July 12, as the same cartoon image of a gagged face, representing the press, was blasted on the front pages of major newspapers. “Information blackout. This is what the National Assembly wants to achieve with the NPC and NBC (Media) Act Amendment Bills,” said a caption under the image, which was sponsored by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN). “It’s not just against the media,” the organisations added. “It’s about society’s right to know, your right to be heard.” The House of Representatives had, on June 17, held a two-day public hearing to consider proposed legislation, including amendments to the National Broadcasting Act and the Nigeria Press Council Act. … Some of the proposed amendments allow NBC to fix prices for subscription television and stipulate heavy fines and imprisonment terms for the publication of fake news without giving room for retractions. HumAngle

Global Piracy Down, Gulf of Guinea Still a Concern
IMB’s latest global piracy report details 68 worldwide incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships – the lowest since 1994 – down from 98 incidents during the same period last year. In the first six months of 2021, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported 61 vessels boarded, four attempted attacks, two vessels fired on and one hijacked. The overall decline in reported incidents has not seen a drop in violence against crews with 50 kidnapped, three taken hostage, the same number threatened, two assaulted, one injured and one killed in the first half of the year. Welcoming reduced reported incidents, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) continues to caution against complacency. Vessels were boarded in 91% of reported incidents, it points out. The Gulf of Guinea continues to be dangerous for seafarers, with 32% of all reported incidents in the region, according to the IMB. It accounted for all 50 kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality in the first half of 2021. The number of kidnappings recorded in the Gulf of Guinea in the last quarter is the lowest since quarter two of 2019, but pirates continue to target all vessel types throughout the region. The IMB warns fishing vessels were hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea and used as mother ships to target other merchant vessels. defenceWeb

Sudan Lawmakers to Review Russian Navy Base Deal: FM
Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi said during a visit to Moscow on Monday that lawmakers in the African country would consider an agreement brokered by its ousted leader to establish a Russian naval base there. Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir in 2017 on establishing a naval base in Port Sudan, on Sudan’s Red Sea coast. No announcement was ever made by the Sudanese side but Russia said it had signed a 25-year agreement with Sudan in December the building of “a logistical support point” for the Russian navy in Sudan. Last month a top military official in Sudan said the country was reviewing the document after some clauses were found to be “somewhat harmful.” During a press conference with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday, Mahdi said the legislature will study the agreement. RFI

Morocco Swelters in a Record Heatwave
Morocco was hit by a fiery weekend heatwave that saw temperatures reach nearly 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), the country’s weather service said on Monday. A statement from the General Directorate of Meteorology (GDM) said Saturday was “the hottest day, with exceptional temperatures never before recorded” in some regions. “Absolute records of maximum temperatures were broken,” the GDM said, with the highest in the kingdom recorded at 49.6 degrees in Sidi Slimane in the northwest. The highs exceeded average monthly temperatures for the time of year by between five and 12 degrees. … Last year was the hottest ever officially recorded in Morocco, with an average national annual temperature 1.4 degrees higher than normal for the years 1981-2010, the GDM said previously. The heatwave in northwest Africa comes as countries including Spain, Canada and the United States swelter in extreme temperatures. Scientists say heatwaves have become more likely because of climate change. As global temperatures rise over time, heatwaves are predicted to become more frequent and intense, and their impacts more widespread. AFP



Photo: Adam Jones