Africa Media Review for July 19, 2021

Tunisia’s Evolving Counterterrorism Strategy
Strategic enhancements in Tunisia’s security apparatus have yielded notable progress in dismantling terrorist cells, tightening control over the country’s porous borders, degrading the capabilities of violent extremist groups affiliated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Islamic State (ISIS), and countering terrorist financing. The latter improvement was rewarded in October 2019 when the Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental organization established by the G7 countries to protect against money laundering and terrorist financing, removed Tunisia from its blacklist. In addition to reducing the number of terrorist incidents, these reforms have contributed to a notable improvement in the overall security situation in Tunisia. As has been demonstrated time and again in the constantly evolving field of counterterrorism, however, such successes can be fleeting. The Tunisia experience, nonetheless, provides an opportunity to take stock of progress made, as well as further areas for improvement. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Delta Variant Takes Hold in Developing World as Infections Soar
The Delta coronavirus variant that has rapidly become dominant across much of the world is exacting a grim toll on dozens of developing countries, where vaccination levels are insufficient to prevent a surge in cases from becoming a wave of deaths. As economies in Europe and the US that have successfully weakened the link between infections and deaths have started to reopen, poorer countries with low vaccination rates are in some cases entering their worst phase of the pandemic. “The world thinks this epidemic is over,” said Fatima Hassan, founder of South Africa’s Health Justice Initiative. “But we still don’t have enough vaccine supplies in the system despite the global realisation that the Delta variant is so devastating.” The Delta variant first identified in India accounts for 95 per cent of cases in South Africa where the genetic code has been sequenced. … The same pattern is evident across much of Africa, which last week recorded a 43 per cent week-on-week rise in Covid-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Five countries — Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia — accounted for 83 per cent of the deaths. Africa has recorded 1m new cases over the past month, the shortest time it has taken to add that number, bringing total infections across the continent above 6m. FT

South Africa’s Leaders Fear Fresh Wave of Violence by Zuma Loyalists
South African authorities fear a new wave of attacks aimed at undermining the economy, investment and the rule of law as networks loyal to former president Jacob Zuma seek to force his return to power. Investigators believe the unrest last week, which killed more than 200 and caused massive damage across a swath of the country, was deliberately provoked as part of a broader strategy by political opponents to force president Cyril Ramaphosa to pardon Zuma or even step down. The worst violence since the end of the apartheid regime 27 years ago has injured many people beyond the 200 people dead and caused massive economic damage. Hundreds of shops have been looted, factories destroyed, warehouses razed, clinics vandalised and ports disabled. The immediate trigger for the chaos was the imprisonment last week of Zuma to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of court. Loyalists and close aides of the former president, who faces a number of corruption charges, are among those suspected by authorities of organising the wave of violence. On Friday, Ramaphosa, in his third televised speech in six days, said it was clear the unrest had been an attempt to provoke an insurrection. “The constitutional order of our country is under threat. These actions are intended to cripple the economy, cause social instability and severely weaken – or even dislodge – the democratic state,” said the president, who ousted Zuma in 2018. The Guardian

Tunisia Puts Military on Vaccination Duty as Cases Soar
Tunisia is facing its worst coronavirus surge since the pandemic began, further stressing the North African country’s already crowded hospitals and health system. That has forced some regions to go back into lockdown and prompted waves of donations of vaccines or medical aid from China, France, Turkey, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria. Tunisia’s government decided to deploy the armed forces to vaccinate people in the regions with the worst infection rates and in areas with particularly low vaccination rates. At the Kesra medical center this week, military doctor Riadh Allani said the turnout for shots “is satisfactory, but it is weak compared to the big cities where the news spreads quickly and people come.” … Over the past month, confirmed cases in Tunisia have reached their highest daily numbers of the pandemic, but the nationwide vaccination rate remains low, according to data from John’s Hopkins University. Tunisia has reported Africa’s highest per-capita pandemic death toll and is currently recording one of the world’s highest daily per-capita infection rates, the data indicate. Military health workers vaccinated thousands of people in Kesra and other sites in the Siliana region in central inland Tunisia, mainly individuals over age 60 with underlying health conditions. AP

Senegal Sees Dramatic COVID-19 Surge as Major Holiday Looms
As millions in Senegal prepare for Tabaski, health officials warn that COVID-19 cases are dramatically surging in the West African nation. In just weeks, new confirmed cases have risen from dozens a day to a record of 738 on Friday and then nearly doubled overnight to 1,366 on Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health. Nearly 36% of 3,815 tests carried out in the past 24 hours came back positive, the health ministry said Saturday. Senegal has reported 50,374 cases and 1,214 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Faced with the dramatic increase, President Macky Sall and his Cabinet are limiting public gatherings and travel and urging the public to continue wearing masks and frequently sanitize their hands. On Friday, Sall threatened to close borders and impose a state of emergency again if numbers continue to rise. Many in Senegal have relaxed their use of masks and other precautions after the country’s early surges weren’t as severe as the outbreaks in other countries. Tabaski, which will be celebrated on July 21 in Senegal, sees thousands of people come together in large family gatherings. Many health officials are worried because in the run-up to the holiday, people throng marketplaces and gather to buy sheep. Only about 600,000 people of Senegal’s population of more than 16 million have been vaccinated. AP

Nigeria Puts Six States on COVID-19 Red Alert, Curbs Gatherings
Nigeria has put six states on red alert after seeing a “worrisome” rise in COVID-19 infections, a government official said, urging people to curb gatherings and hold prayers outside mosques during this week’s Muslim festival Eid-el-Kabir. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is like most parts of the continent now facing a COVID-19 third wave after detecting the more transmissible Delta variant. The head of the presidential steering committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory had been placed on red alert as part of preventive measures against the pandemic. A red alert allows authorities in the states to restrict celebrations and gatherings to a minimum. “These steps are critical as we begin to see worrisome early signs of increasing cases in Nigeria,” Mustapha said in a statement. Mustapha said there was potential for wider spread of the virus during the Eid-el-Kabir gatherings and said Friday prayers should be held outside local mosques. He also suspended Durbar, an annual Muslim festival in northern Nigeria, which is marked by colourful horse riding events watched by large gatherings. Reuters

Second Filling of Ethiopia’s Giant Dam Nearly Complete – State Media
Ethiopia has nearly completed the filling of a huge dam on the Blue Nile river for a second year, state media reported on Monday, a move that has already angered Egypt. Addis Ababa says the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a $4 billion hydropower project, is crucial to its economic development and to provide power. But is has caused concern over water shortages and safety in Egypt and Sudan, which also depend on the Nile’s waters. “The second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be completed in few minutes,” the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) reported on Monday. Egypt said last month it had received official notice from Ethiopia that it had begun filling the reservoir for a second time and said it rejected the move. Egypt views it as a grave threat to its Nile water supplies, on which it is almost entirely dependent. Sudan has also expressed concern about the dam’s safety and the impact on its own dams and water stations. Reuters

Jihadis Expand Control to New Burkina Faso Fronts
Florent Coulibaly, a soldier in Burkina Faso’s army, says he hasn’t been sleeping well for the past few months as he is often roused at 3 a.m. to fight jihadi rebels. … Over the past six months, his battalion has doubled its patrols from once a week to twice, but Coulibaly says the men are ill-equipped, overworked and worry the area could be overrun by jihadis. Burkina Faso is experiencing an increase in extremist violence by groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Last month, at least 11 police officers were killed when their patrol was ambushed in the north. The country also experienced its deadliest violence in years when at least 132 civilians were killed in an attack in its Sahel region. The jihadi rebels are also expanding their reach within Burkina Faso. Extremist violence centered in the country’s north and east has spread into the west and southwest areas near Mali and Ivory Coast, bringing residents and security forces in those areas to brace for more conflict. The move into western Burkina Faso makes strategic sense for the groups who can use it as a base to extend their operations in West Africa. The thick vegetation gives them cover and the area can give them territorial control over the smuggling route between Gulf of Guinea countries and Mali. AP

13 Policemen Killed in Northwest Nigeria
Thirteen policemen were killed in an ambush by cattle thieves in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state, in the latest spate of violence in the region, police said late on Sunday. A police unit was ambushed in Kurara Mota village in Bungudu district while “responding to a distress call” from residents of nearby villages about an impending attack by bandits, local police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said. “Unfortunately, 13 personnel paid the supreme price,” Shehu added. Northwest Nigeria has been terrorized by criminal gangs who raid villages, steal cattle, kidnap for ransom and burn homes after looting supplies. The police said a manhunt has been launched to track the assailants in a nearby forest where they are believed to have hideouts, Shehu said. Residents said the bandits had earlier attacked nearby Magami community, but were thwarted by troops stationed in the town. The Defense Post with AFP

Armed Gang Murder Nigerian Army General
The Nigerian Army has announced the death of one of its senior officers, Major General Hassan Ahmed, in an attack by an armed gang on the Lokoja-Abuja highway, Abuja, North-central Nigeria. A former Provost Marshall of the Nigerian army, Ahmed was a director in the army headquarters until his death. A statement by Onyema Nwachukwu, the army’s spokesperson, said the assailants opened fire on Ahmed’s car in Abaji, Federal Capital Territory when he was returning to Abuja from Okene in Kogi State without an escort on Thursday night, July 15,2021. Daily Post reported that he was travelling with his sister, Safrinia Ahmed who was later kidnapped during the attack. … Ahmed’s death comes two months after Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru and other top-ranking military officers died in a plane crash in Kaduna. HumAngle

African Standby Force Faces Low Commitment, Lack of Financial Support
The African Union has admitted difficulties in raising a ready force to deal with emerging conflicts, signalling a continual lack of commitment among members. A session of the African Union Peace and Security Council earlier this month agreed to continue pooling resources for the African Standby Force, but raised concerns about the apparent low contribution from member states. The AU Standby Force was mooted 20 years ago but slowly adopted as the policy ran into AU’s own red tape, such as the initial policy of non-interference in each other’s’ affairs as well as financial commitment. The bloc later decided to work with regional blocs such as the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC) to pool troops that would be on standby to intervene in local security situations. So far, the continental bloc has established the Continental Logistics Base in Doula Cameroon as part of the “broader AU strategy for the operationalisation of the ASF.” But money and the actual availability of those troops has been low, with individual countries forced to foot the cost of deployment. The EastAfrican

King Mswati Ignores Calls for Change in First Response to eSwatini Crisis
King Mswati ignored calls for democratic reform saying demonstrators who had destroyed property in the riots last month were like people smoking marijuana who one could not speak sense to. Opposition groups said many Swazis were furious with the king’s stance. … The king made one small concession to criticism, though it fell far short of opposition demands for democratic reforms. He rebuked his government for banning Swazis from petitioning their members of parliament with their grievances last month and replaced acting prime minister Themba Masuku with a permanent prime minister, former CEO of the government pension fund Cleopas Dlamini. Earlier on Friday security forces had broken up a protest march in the commercial capital Manzini by opposition forces demanding democratic reform and a boycott of Mswati’s address to the people, at a rare traditional “sibaya” gathering in his royal residence Ludzidzini. Sikelela Dlamini, Secretary-General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), told Reuters that security forces had dispersed the protestors with tear gas and a water cannon. Daily Maverick

Uganda: Bobi Wine Collaborator Nubian Li Recounts His Prison Ordeal
For Ali Bukeni, joining Bobi Wine on the campaign trail was a no-brainer — despite the dangers. Bukeni, better known by his stage name Nubian Li, is one of Bobi Wine’s musical partners. The pair have recorded a number of songs together. When the 39-year-old singer-turned-politician Bobi Wine — real name Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert — sought to end the 35-year tenure of the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni in January’s elections, Bukeni was by his side. Bobi Wine’s team was regularly intimidated by the security forces. Arbitrary arrests were not uncommon. Sure enough, at one of their campaign events last December in Kalangala, an island town in central Uganda, security forces apprehended Bukeni and many other members of Wine’s entourage. “I told them I would comply and that there was no need to use force,” Bukeni told The Continent in an interview. Bukeni said he was held in a truck alongside other campaign staffers and supporters — 127 of them in total were hauled to the police station in Kalangala. Police shot tear gas to disperse the crowd that had gathered to barricade the route to the station. … Bukeni said he and nine others were transferred to an army encampment where the conditions were hellish… Mail & Guardian

Egypt Frees Activists amid Criticism of Rights Record
Egypt on Sunday freed six activists, including journalist Esraa Abdel-Fattah, a symbol of the 2011 revolution, just days after Washington warned Cairo over a crackdown on rights activists. Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2014, the former army chief has overseen a sweeping crackdown on dissent. On Wednesday, the United States warned Egypt not to target rights campaigners, saying the issue would be a factor in arms sales to its Arab ally. Analysts said the latest releases were aimed at easing international pressure over Egypt’s human rights record. The prosecution ordered Abdel-Fattah’s release after nearly 22 months in pre-trial detention, lawyer Khaled Ali said, posting photographs of her leaving prison. She was ordered released on Saturday along with Abdel Nasser Ismail, leader of the Popular Alliance party, and Gamal El-Gammal, a journalist and opposition figure. In another surprise announcement on Sunday, the prosecution ordered the release of prominent lawyer and rights activist Mahienour El-Masri and journalists Motaz Wadnan and Mostafa El-Asar. AFP

Algeria Recalls Ambassador to Morocco in Row over Western Sahara
The Algerian foreign ministry recalled its ambassador to Morocco on Sunday and hinted at possible further measures in the latest flare-up of tension between the North African neighbours over the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The move was linked to comments from the Moroccan envoy to the United Nations on Algeria’s Kabylie region, the ministry said after the envoy drew the region into the decades-old row over Western Sahara, which is claimed by Morocco as well as the Algeria-backed Polisario Front. The Moroccan envoy had called at a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement for “the right of self-determination for the people living in the Kabylie region” in reference to Algeria’s Tamazight-speaking minority. He had suggested Algeria should not deny that while backing self-determination for Western Sahara. The Polisario Front is fighting for the independence for Western Sahara, a Spanish colony until mid-1970s now largely occupied and administered by Morocco. Reuters

Official: Sudan Seeking Debt Relief from Gulf Arab Nations
Sudan will seek relief from wealthy Gulf Arab nations, aiming to get as much as 60% of the African country’s $30 million in debt to them written off, the Sudanese finance minister said. The announcement late Sunday by the minister, Gebreil Ibrahim, came after cash-stripped Sudan received a $14.1 billion debt relief from the Paris Club of creditor nations last week. Ibrahim said Khartoum would also ask Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to reschedule Sudan’s remaining debt for 16 years. The talks would also focus on a six-year grace period for debt payments, he said. The Paris Club, a group of 22 nations that lend to governments in need, on Friday urged other lenders to provide similar debt forgiveness to Sudan, which is in a fragile transition to democracy following a 2019 popular uprising that led to the military’s ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir. The club also agreed to reschedule Sudan’s remaining $9.4 billion in debt to the group. “What happened in the Paris Club … is a significant achievement that would lead to more achievements,” said Ibrahim. He added that Sudan’s government would now work to attract investments. AP

Celebrated Kenyan Environmentalist Shot Dead amid Dispute with Developers Cutting Down Forest
A prominent Kenyan environmentalist has been shot dead on her driveway amid a dispute with commercial developers who had been cutting down a forest that abutted her home. Joannah Stutchbury, 64, was driving down a dirt track to her home in Kiambu County, Nairobi when she found the entrance to her drive blocked by branches and trees, local residents tell The Telegraph. As she exited the vehicle to remove the debris, the Kenyan national was shot four times by armed criminals who jumped out from hiding and then fled into the nearby Kiambu forest, residents say. … Her murder follows the unsolved case of American conservationist, Esmond Bradley Martin, who was stabbed to death in his Nairobi home while investigating the illegal elephant and ivory trade in 2018. … President Uhuru Kenyatta condemned the killings and instructed the security agencies to track down the perpetrators, “We will not allow a few misguided individuals to continue shedding blood of innocent people working hard to make Kenya a better place for us all,” he said. He paid tribute to the late environmentalist who he called “a steadfast champion for the conservation of our environment.” Telegraph

New Somalia Law Seeks to Rescue Fisheries from Looters
Somalia says its lucrative fishing resources will be completely shielded from looters once a new law comes into force, and which will provide uniform regulation in all parts of the country. A draft law by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources seeks to bring on board all state agencies at federal government level as well as the agencies in federal states, unifying, for the first time, what has been chaotic regulation of fishing grounds for nearly four decades. Mohamud Sheikh Abdullahi, the director-general for Fisheries in the ministry told the Nation that the country’s nascent federal structure where some states were more powerful than others had given looters the opportunity to fish illegally in Somalia’s waters, as there had been no standard licensing conditions. … The official spoke weeks after a report by the Global Initiative against Transnational Crime [GI-Toc] criticised Somalia’s disjointed regulations for fuelling illegal fishing. The report said it had found that vessels from as far as Iran, Yemen and South East Asia had “routinely” engaged in Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Somali waters. … At one time, the desire to guard those fishing grounds led to the rise of piracy, which has since been brought down by a coalition of maritime countries patrolling the shared Indian Ocean. Nation

‘I Am Broken’: South African Communities Are Gutted by a Wave of Looting, Arson and Loss
As thousands of people pillaged Chris Hani Mall, named after the famed militant communist who led the armed struggle against apartheid, Zandile Dlamini figured she’d go watch. To the 18-year-old, the moment felt historic: the crumbling of society that so many had long predicted here, where inequality has ballooned, fueled by corruption and neglect. The looters were the poor who had scarcely benefited from the end of White rule 27 years ago, leaving their homes in the townships that shadow Johannesburg as a wave of lawlessness swept across South Africa’s two most populous provinces this week. Her brother Vusi, even though four years younger, felt concerned — and responsible — for her safety. He jumped on his bike and headed toward the mall, thinking he would bring her home. It was Zandile who found him instead, dead on the ground with a single gunshot to the head. Who shot Vusi isn’t clear, but he is one of at least 212 who have died in the mayhem — killed by police or vigilantes, or crushed in stampedes as people fled law enforcement. … “I did my best to make sure that my children are well taken care of, that they can dress up and look good just like other children,” said Vusi’s mother, Rejoice Dlamini, 37, who sells corn and spinach for a living. “I am broken.” The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones