Africa Media Review for July 16, 2021

Africa COVID Deaths Surge 43 Percent in a Week: WHO
Coronavirus-linked deaths in Africa surged by 43 percent in the space of a week, driven by a lack of intensive-care beds and oxygen, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday, as the new Delta variant surged on the continent. Fatalities associated with COVID in the WHO’s Africa region, which includes North Africa, rose to 6,273 in the week of July 5-11, compared with 4,384 in the previous week. “Deaths have climbed steeply for the past five weeks. This is a clear warning sign that hospitals in the most impacted countries are reaching a breaking point,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa told a virtual news conference. “Under-resourced health systems in countries are facing dire shortages of the health workers, supplies, equipment and infrastructure needed to provide care to severely ill COVID-19 patients,” she said, speaking from the Congo capital of Brazzaville. Al Jazeera

Africa’s Covid Crisis Deepens, but Vaccines Are Still Far Off
Africa is now in the deadliest stage of its pandemic, and there is little prospect of relief in sight. The Delta variant is sweeping across the continent. Namibia and Tunisia are reporting more deaths per capita than any other country. Hospitals across the continent are filling up, oxygen supplies and medical workers are stretched thin and recorded deaths jumped 40 percent last week alone. But only about 1 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated. And even the African Union’s modest goal of getting 20 percent of the population vaccinated by the end of 2021 seems out of reach. Rich nations have bought up most doses long into the future, often far more than they could conceivably need. Hundreds of millions of shots from a global vaccine-sharing effort have failed to materialize. … Even if everything goes according to plan, Covax officials project they won’t be able to deliver more than 200 million doses to Africa, enough to fully vaccinate around 7 percent of the population, until October. New York Times

Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis: Fleeing for Fear of New Ethnic Conflict
Almost every night, a handful of young men slip across the well-guarded border, swimming across a fast-flowing brown river and trudging into Sudan to escape what they say is a sudden upsurge in ethnic violence in the far western corner of Ethiopia’s Tigray region. This fertile area, still held by soldiers and militias loyal to Ethiopia’s federal government, is now seen as a likely next target for Tigray’s rebel fighters, as they seek to strengthen their control over the region and secure a potentially crucial supply route into neighbouring Sudan. The conflict in Tigray is now showing dangerous signs of transforming into a more widespread ethnic conflict that could suck in other parts of Ethiopia. “They gave us two days to leave, or we would be killed,” said one 18-year-old Tigrayan. … He accused soldiers from the nearby region of Amhara – who currently control the key border town of Humera – of targeting Tigrayan men of fighting age. … “The Amhara militia are going door to door. If they know you are a Tigrayan they kill or arrest you …” said another teenager. BBC

Ethiopia Regions Send Troops to Back Fight with Tigray Rebels
Three Ethiopian regions previously untouched by the war in Tigray confirmed on Thursday that they were deploying forces to back military operations there, signalling a potential widening of the conflict. The reinforcements are coming from Oromia – Ethiopia’s largest region – as well as the Sidama region and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), according to official statements and state media reports. The mobilisation follows Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s warning on Wednesday that his forces would repel any attacks by their enemies, effectively tearing up a government-declared ceasefire on June 28. … The war, characterised by grisly massacres and rampant sexual violence, has damaged Abiy’s standing as a reformer and peacemaker, and badly strained Ethiopia’s ties with traditional allies. Western powers have demanded the ceasefire be accompanied by unfettered aid access and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, warning of possible sanctions should these conditions not be met. Al Jazeera

Fresh Evidence of Violence at Libyan Detention Centres as Boats Turned Back
New evidence of starvation and abuses inside migrant detention centres has been collected from migrants inside seven facilities across Libya. A report by Amnesty International comes less than a month after Médecins Sans Frontières announced it was suspending its operations at two centres in Libya because of increasing violence towards refugees and migrants. Amnesty says it has more than 50 fresh accounts documenting severe beatings, sexual violence, extortion and forced labour at the centres, used to house people who have been forcibly returned after trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean. In the report launched on Thursday, testimonies gathered between January 2020 and June 2021 allege that guards coerced women into sex in exchange for water and shot at detainees, causing deaths and injuries, while in one of the centres, people were reportedly starving. … Thousands of refugees and migrants are held in detention centres across Libya, which are nominally run by the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) and overseen by the ministry of the interior. The Guardian

Benin Opposition Figure Joel Aivo in Court
Benin opposition figure Joel Aivo, detained since mid-April after being barred from running in presidential elections, appeared in court on Thursday, where his lawyers condemned what they said was his arbitrary arrest. Several opposition leaders in the West African state were detained before or just after the April 11 vote that saw President Patrice Talon win a second term with more than 86 percent of the votes. Aivo, arrested on April 15 and accused of undermining state security, is being tried at the Economic Crime and Terrorism Court (CRIET) in the administrative capital, Porto-Novo. … The CRIET, a special court set up in 2016, is often accused of serving as a tool by the regime to crack down on the opposition. … Once praised for its vibrant multi-party democracy, critics say Benin has veered into authoritarian rule under former cotton-magnate Talon. AFP

SADC Deploys Team to eSwatini
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has deployed a technical fact-finding team to the kingdom of eSwatini to engage with the stakeholders following recent political and security disturbances. Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security and Botswana President Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi said the team will analyse the political and security situation in the country with a view to support the people of eSwatini towards finding a durable solution. … Dr Masisi said SADC supports peace and stability in the Kingdom of eSwatini and will thus engage all concerned parties. … “It is our hope that all concerned parties will continue to uphold and embrace peaceful means in addressing their differences and challenges.” The Herald

Major Nigerian Media Houses Stay off Twitter, despite ECOWAS Court Order
Major media houses have complied with Nigerian government’s illegal Twitter ban despite an order of the ECOWAS Court of Justice shielding them from sanctions, checks by Premium Times have shown. Twitter was banned by the Nigerian by the federal government on June 4, two days after a controversial tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari was taken down from the platform. … The ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja also issued an order restraining the government from sanctioning, prosecuting or harassing Nigerians and media houses for using Twitter. In its judgment delivered on June 22, the ECOWAS Court in Abuja, “restrained the government and its agents from unlawfully imposing sanctions or doing anything whatsoever to harass, intimidate, arrest or prosecute Twitter and/or any other social media service provider(s), media houses, radio and television broadcast stations, the plaintiffs and other Nigerians who are Twitter users, pending the hearing and determination of this suit.” … The front banners of major newspapers in Nigeria on Monday bore a picture of an individual with a sealed mouth, a depiction of the unrelenting efforts by the authorities of control the media and curb freedom of expression. Premium Times

DRC: Mixed Feelings over Draft Law Limiting Presidential Eligibility
For several days in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), public discourse on on “Congoleseness” has taken a new course. A draft law which provides for the exclusion from the presidential election, but also from other government functions, of any person whose two parents are not Congolese has elicited mixed feelings. The bill has the political class, but also the general public divided and with strong opinions. … Opponents of the draft legislation say it targets opposition activist Moise Katumbi, whose father is Greek, who’s said to have presidential ambitions. Congo’s presidential election is only two years away. Observers say President Felix Tshisekedi is keen to exploit Katumbi’s parents to exclude him from the vote. AfricaNews

South Africa Zuma Riots: Fact-checking Claims about the Protests
As unrest spreads in South Africa following the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, some social media users have been sharing misleading videos and pictures. The current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has urged South Africans to “refrain from posting and circulating inflammatory messages on social media, and from spreading rumours or false reports” … A Twitter account for one of Mr Zuma’s children, Dudu Zuma-Sambudla, posted an image of people on a major road in the city of Durban, some lying down in an act of protest. The post was captioned: “Durban City, We See You! Amandla,” with the hashtag #FreeJacobZuma. Amandla – meaning power – became a rallying cry for protests during the apartheid period. However, the image used is not related to events following the jailing of the former president, and looks like it’s from a different set of protests last year. BBC

Zimbabwe NGO Sues Government Over Alleged Planned Export of Elephants
A Zimbabwean environmental group is suing the government over purported plans to export elephants to China, which the group says has subjected the animals to unhealthful conditions. In an application to Zimbabwe’s High Court, Advocates4Earth is seeking to prevent the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority from carrying out the transfer. … Zimbabwe’s elephant population has grown in recent years, climbing to 100,000. Some farmers have complained that the elephants are destroying their crops and grazing lands. However, the Zimbabwe Wildlife Authority denies it is in the process of exporting elephants to China. … In the past, Zimbabwe has exported elephants to other countries despite objections from animal rights and environmental groups such as Advocates4Earth. VOA

Zimbabwe: Zanu PF A Militarised Graveyard: Jonathan Moyo
Former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo says Zanu PF has become a military outfit working against the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens. Commenting on the readmission of former Zanu PF youth leader Kudzanayi Chipanga and other senior Zanu PF officials minister into the ruling party, Moyo said Zanu PF was now a “blunt military tool”, and those rejoining it should not be deceived. Moyo was also responding to Zanu PF’s remarks by Zanu PF officials that the G40 cabal key members were non-existent. However, in an exclusive interview with NewZimbabwe.com Thursday, Moyo said: “Zanu PF has become a blunt military tool of Gukurahundists at State House, Defence House, and KGVI Barracks to oppress Zimbabweans.” … Moyo said most Zimbabweans had decided not to associate themselves with Zanu PF and that was testimony the ruling party is living on borrowed time. New Zimbabwe

African Leaders Seek $100 Billion from World Bank Fund to Finance Economic Recovery
African leaders gathered in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Thursday to plead with the World Bank for new aid plans to finance their economic recovery and better access to vaccines against Covid-19. The leaders are seeking $100 billion for a pivotal World Bank fund that provides assistance to the lowest-income nations, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pile up financing pressures on economies. 23 African leaders set the goal in a joint declaration after the summit according to the World Bank. The bank in April had accelerated its process for a twentieth replenishment of International Development Association also known as the IDA after the fund provided massive assistance to help countries deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. IDA is one of the largest sources of funding for fighting extreme poverty in the world’s lowest income countries andAfrica is the continent with the most beneficiaries having 39 countries on the list. AfricaNews

High Hopes, Keen Interest as New Coffee Plant Discovered in Sierra Leone
In Sierra Leone, a team of researchers and agronomists have found traces of a wild coffee known as Coffea stenophylla. Farmed until the beginning of the 20th century, it used to be served to European high society. But due to its scarcity, it was gradually replaced by arabica and robusta strains. Forgotten by farmers, Coffea stenophylla was thought to have completely disappeared by 1954. The new find has generated much excitement in Sierra Leone because of its potential to revolutionise the global coffee sector. France24



Photo: Adam Jones