Africa Media Review for July 14, 2021

South Africa: More than 70 Dead as Unrest Linked to Zuma Jailing Intensifies
Unrest in South Africa triggered by the jailing of the former president Jacob Zuma intensified on Tuesday, despite calls for calm from senior officials and the deployment of thousands of soldiers to the streets to reinforce struggling police. President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the deadly violence and protests as unprecedented in the 27 years since the end of the apartheid regime. The death toll from nearly a week of unrest has risen to 72, some from gunshot wounds, while 1,300 people have been arrested. … South Africa’s supreme court sentenced Zuma to 15 months in prison for contempt after he defied its order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in power. It is the first time a former president has been jailed in post-apartheid South Africa, and has been seen as a landmark for the rule of law in the country, as well as a victory for Ramaphosa. … Chemists helping the government’s Covid-19 faltering vaccination campaign warned that the unrest gripping the country would slow inoculations in the continent’s worst-hit country. There are also fears the mass gatherings of looters and protesters could spread the virus. “Our vaccination programme has been severely disrupted just as it is gaining momentum,” said Ramaphosa. The Guardian

South African Crowds Rampage, Hospital Operations Disrupted
Crowds looted shops and offices in South Africa on Wednesday, defying government calls to end a week of violence that has killed more than 70 people and wrecked hundreds of businesses. The unrest, the worst in South Africa for years, also disrupted hospitals struggling to cope with a third wave of COVID-19 and forced the closure of a refinery. Protests triggered by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry last week have widened into looting and an outpouring of general anger over the hardship and inequality that persist 27 years after the end of apartheid. … The National Hospital Network (NHN), representing 241 public hospitals already under strain from Africa’s worst COVID-19 epidemic, said it was running out of oxygen and drugs, most of which are imported through Durban, as well as food. “The impact of the looting and destruction is having dire consequences on hospitals,” the NHN said. “And the epicentre of the pandemic is within the affected provinces currently under siege.” Staff in affected areas were unable to get to work, it said, worsening shortages caused by a third wave of infections. Reuters

Tunisia Enlists Military to Get People Jabbed as It Battles Third Wave of Infections
On Tuesday, France included Tunisia in its red list of countries with high Covid-19 risk, because of the deteriorating health situation caused by the virus. On Monday, military health workers vaccinated persons over 60 years old or with comorbidities in Kesra and other regions of Siliana state. The vaccination campaign involving the military was launched last weekend in two regions, Siliana and Tataouine, where at least 3,000 people received the jab. The North African nation has reported Africa’s highest per-capita death toll from the pandemic. Currently, it is recording one of the highest per-capita infection rates on the continent, according to data from John’s Hopkins University. 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, the data shows. … To help with the vaccination drive, President Kaies Saied took the first dose of the vaccine on Monday, in a bid to create awareness about the need to get inoculated. Africanews and AP

UN Urges ‘Verifiable Withdrawal’ of Eritrean Troops from Tigray
The United Nations Human Rights Council has approved a resolution calling for an immediate end to all violations in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region and for Eritrean troops, who support the federal government against Tigrayan forces, to quickly withdraw in a verifiable manner. The development on Tuesday came as Tigrayan forces said they have seized Alamata, the main town in southern Tigray, following the launch of a new offensive two weeks after the federal government declared a unilateral ceasefire in the face of rebel advances. The resolution, adopted with 20 of the rights council’s 47 members in favour, 14 opposing and 13 abstaining, called “for an immediate halt to all human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.” The text also called for “the swift and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the Tigray region.” … Tuesday’s resolution was met with strong resistance from Eritrea, as well as China and Venezuela, which together presented 15 proposed amendments, which were all rejected. Al Jazeera

‘I Came Here to Fight’: Rare Footage of Ethiopia’s Tigray
The 16-year-old girl hoped to go to war. Inspired by the sight of resurgent local forces marching in to retake the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region six months after being forced to flee, Meron Mezgeb waited in a crowd seeking to get a gun and join them. “I came here because I saw girls like me being raped” by combatants, she said. “I actually wanted to go (fight) at the beginning but I was told I was too young. But because I saw my comrades come, I came here to fight alongside them.” The scenes of jubilation and determination in the city of Mekele, in video obtained by The Associated Press and smuggled out of Tigray days later, are a rare look at the dramatic turn in a conflict that has threatened to destabilize one of Africa’s most populous and powerful countries. After months of fear in a city occupied by Ethiopian soldiers and forces from neighboring Eritrea who pursued the Tigray regional leaders, crowds of Mekele residents rushed to the local security bureau to sign up to fight. They were buoyed by the striking sight of a long parade of thousands of Ethiopian soldiers now held as prisoners of war, and by Tigray leaders walking openly in the city again. Residents lining the streets jeered the prisoners, and cheered their leaders. AP

France’s Sahel Military Force Will End in Early 2022: Macron
France’s anti-jihadist military force in the Sahel region, which today involves over 5,000 troops, will end in the first quarter of 2022, President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday. Last week Macron announced a gradual drawdown of France’s military presence in the Sahel and the end of the existing Barkhane operation. Now he has put a timeline on the end of the operation, while assuring that France is “not withdrawing” entirely from the region. “We will put an end to Operation Barkhane in the first quarter of 2022 in an orderly fashion,” Macron told troops on the eve of France’s traditional Bastille Day celebrations. Last week Macron said that he saw France’s future presence as being part of a so-called Takuba international task force in the Sahel of which hundreds of French soldiers would form the “backbone.” It would mean the closure of French bases and the use of special forces focused on anti-terror operations and military training. The Defense Post with AFP

Weeks of Rioting Fail to Force Reform in eSwatini
The pro-democracy demonstrations and deadly violence that erupted in Eswatini last month and continued into July has deepened the southern African nation’s economic and humanitarian crisis, but without forcing any reform of the royal establishment. The people of Eswatini have never lived under a democratic system of government. King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, presides over the worst performing economy in the region. Employment is scarce, poverty is deep, and the unrest brought aid work to a standstill. Despite rare international attention being paid to the country after weeks of unprecedented protests, Eswatini’s 1.3 million people will remain as they are for the foreseeable future – subjects of a king rather than co-equal citizens of a country with democratic rights. … The government has announced it will open a “national dialogue” on political reform, but few hold out any hope for real change. Opposition figures said the palace has played this card since labour groups initiated the first pro-democracy political campaign in 1996. The New Humanitarian

Overlooked Political Challenges Return to Haunt South Sudan
The story of South Sudan, had political leaders not overlooked challenges at independence, would have been better on its tenth anniversary. As the country marked 10 years since it seceded from Sudan, key stakeholders involved in the country’s search for peace, stability and justice say personal interests, lack of unity, and departure from the original vision for independence conspired to derail the country. Battered by war, South Sudan is celebrating its anniversary with nearly five million people still displaced by violence and considered hungry, another two million staying in neighbouring countries as refugees and a sore lack of basic commodities occasioned by an unstable economy. All these are related to its enduring conflict, only brought to a halt after leaders — President Salva Kiir and his then nemesis Riek Machar and 10 other groups — signed a peace agreement in 2018 and established a government of national unity last year in February.The EastAfrican

Politicians Vouch for a More United Nigeria, Dismiss Secessionists
The secession agitations in Nigeria’s southeast and southwest regions are a complicated dimension to the country’s escalating insecurity marked by kidnappings, banditry and terrorism. … The Oduduwa republic secession group of Yoruba people of southwest is led by Sunday Adeyemo (aka Igboho), a well know figure of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who has been declared wanted by the police. He is on the run from the police. The arrowhead of the Biafra nation of Igbo people of south East is Nnamdi Kanu, who was recently re-arrested, and now facing 11-counts, some bordering on treason. Leading the proscribed Indigenous People Biafra (IPOB), Kanu, a Nigerian-British national, has resorted to arms struggle, killing security personnel and destroying federal government’s institutions. … Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, 84, in a speech on June 9, 2021, in Abeokuta, insisted on Nigeria’s unity though not at any cost. As a strong believer of one Nigeria, Obasanjo argued that Nigerians will fare better staying together. “It is better for Nigeria to remain as one indivisible nation than for each tribe to go its separate way.” Former President Goodluck Jonathan said emphasis on divisive politics has greatly afflicted the unity of the country. “As a country, we have our peculiar challenges and should devise means of solving them.’’ The EastAfrican

DRC and Burundi Sign Trade, Development Agreements
The Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi have signed vital agreements aimed at strengthening their ties. On Tuesday, Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye and DRC’s Felix Tshisekedi signed the agreements in Kinshasa. Both leaders stressed on the necessity of several beneficial projects such as constructing bridges for vehicles and pedestrians on the Ruzizi river, between the provinces of South Kivu and Cibitoke in DRC and Burundi, respectively; agricultural exploitation in the Ruzizi plain; the rehabilitation and electrification of the Bujumbura-Uvira-Bukavu-Goma road; and the development of the Gitega-Uvira-Kindu standard gauge railway. The agreements also included cooperation on development; maintenance and strengthening of peace, defense and security; trade facilitation; and political and diplomatic consultations. “We have explored ways and means to combine our efforts to face common challenges” for the benefit of our citizens, President Ndayishimiye said. … Cooperation between the two countries will result in them securing their land and sea borders in a bid to eradicate rebels, President Ndayishimiye added. The EastAfrican

Zuma’s Daughter Faces Allegations of Inciting South Africa Riots
One of former South African President Jacob Zuma’s daughters has come under scrutiny for allegedly inciting violent protests that have claimed at least 72 lives and seen rampant looting and business closures. As many as 12 people are on the authorities’ radar for stoking the riots, Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters on Tuesday, when asked if Duduzile Zuma-Sambundla was being investigated. An unverified Twitter account under her name encouraged people to protest against her 79-year-old father’s incarceration on contempt-of-court charges last week. She hasn’t distanced herself from the posts. Attempts by Bloomberg News to reach Zuma-Sambundla for comment were unsuccessful. The ruling African National Congress distanced itself from the comments attributed to Zuma-Sambundla saying, that she will be called to explain her tweets as a member of the party. The main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, said it plans to file a police complaint against her. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones